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Half Of California’s Population Moving Back To Masking Indoors In Public, Per Local Health Officials

Health officers in seven Bay Area counties have asked residents to return to masking in public as Covid-19 numbers surge across the state.

On Friday afternoon, the health departments of the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and the City of Berkeley recommended that “everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places to ensure easy verification that all unvaccinated people are masked in those settings.”

Furthermore the announcement from the counties states, “Businesses are urged to adopt universal masking requirements for customers entering indoor areas of their businesses to provide better protection to their employees and customers. Workplaces must comply with Cal/OSHA requirements and fully vaccinated employees are encouraged to wear masks indoors if their employer has not confirmed the vaccination status of those around them.”

The move comes one day after Los Angeles, Yolo and Sacramento issued similar guidance. Added together, the counties represent about half of California’s 39 million residents.

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“This is an all hands on deck moment,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis. “We’re seeing the rates go up too high. We all need to do our part to try and prevent the need to do something else.”

The move back into masking restrictions by the Bay Area counties comes on the same day California’s count of new cases jumped by more than 1,000, from 3,611 on Thursday to 4,651 on Friday. The last time the state saw that kind of one-day spike was on March 2, according to state tracking. The last time the number of new daily cases topped 4,600 was on February 22.

While county health officials are taking action, California Governor Gavin Newsom has been mostly silent on the rise in Covid cases. Newsom, facing a recall election, has been barnstorming the state touting new initiatives as a result of the state’s massive budget surplus. He is fond of saying from the podium that California is “roaring back.” Unfortunately, his assessment applies not just to the state’s positive budgetary situation, but also to its Covid-19 infection rates.

Newsom has taken few questions on the subject of Covid in the past week, despite his numerous appearances. When he signed the state budget at a political campaign-style event, he took no questions at all. The governor’s most recent messages on Twitter have not addressed the rapid rise in cases either, but rather implored Californians to “get vaccinated.” Good advice, according to infectious disease experts.

The closely-watched 7-day average test positivity rate and cases per 100,000 are both surging. On July 4, the 7-day average test positivity rate was 1.8%. It has more than doubled since then to 3.7% on Friday. Likewise, the case rate per 100,000 in CA has jumped from 4.2 on July 4 to 5.4 on Friday. The numbers are worrying not just because they indicate a rapid rise in infections, but also because such a rapid rise is hard to stop once started.

When Governor Newsom reopened the state on June 15, he set aside his Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework, which dictated how widely counties could open based on key Covid metrics, including test positivity and cases per 100,000. If that framework were still in place, California would no longer be in its Yellow, or Minimal, tier, but on the far side of the Orange, or Moderate, tier teetering on the verge of the Red, or Substantial, tier. That’s based on the state’s current case rate of 5.4 per 100,000. The state’s largest city, Los Angeles, announced numbers on Thursday that would qualify it for that Red tier, thus the mask mandate.

Newsom’s office declined media requests to address the new mask requirements.

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