San Diego

Face Masks Required Indoors in California. What Does it Mean For San Diego?

San Diegans, like other California residents, will be required to mask up starting Dec. 15 when the state's new mask mandate goes into effect

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What to Know:

  • Mandatory indoor mask mandate goes into effect on Wed. Dec. 15
  • Mandate to last a month until Jan. 15, with health officials citing an increase in COVID-19 cases since Thanksgiving
  • Events with more than 1,000 people: attendees will need proof of vaccination or a negative test taken within 24 hours (tightened from 72 hours)

San Diegans, like everyone else in California, will be required to wear masks indoors starting Wednesday -- when California's one-month mask mandate goes into effect.

While San Diego County public health officials did not modify any local health orders, officials said San Diego would be following the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) mandate and all San Diegans -- regardless of vaccination status --would be required to mask up in indoor public spaces.

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) officials announced the mask-wearing requirement on Monday citing a 47% increase in COVID-19 infection rates across the state since Thanksgiving. He said over that time, the statewide rate of daily new cases went from 9.6 per 100,000 residents to more than 14 per 100,000.

San Diego County's case rate per 100,000 residents is 14.2 overall, 8.3 for fully vaccinated people and 24.8 for not fully vaccinated San Diegans.

"As we look at the evidence that masks do make a difference, even a 10% increase in indoor masking can reduce case transmission significantly," he said.

The state already technically requires mask-wearing for unvaccinated people at indoor public facilities, but the new rule will impact everyone regardless of vaccine status.

Face coverings are already required for everyone in these settings, whether you've been vaccinated or not:

  • On public transit, such as buses, trains, airplanes, ferries, taxis and ride services, and in the areas that serve those, such as airports, transit stations, etc. 
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings
  • Adult and senior care facilities  
  • Healthcare settings, including long-term care facilities 
  • Detention facilities
  • Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers

It was not immediately clear how San Diego County would enforce the mandate. A public health official told NBC 7 they "expect the public, including businesses to abide by the state masking requirement."

Cases of the coronavirus have been increasing recently in San Diego and elsewhere. Last Wednesday, county officials said. The number of new infections reported in the past week — 5,418 — far exceeds the previous week's 2,955. Authorities have laid the blame for the spike on Thanksgiving gatherings, however, not the omicron variant.

No county supervisors have yet responded to NBC 7's questions.

NBC 7's Jackie Crea broke the news about the mask mandate to people in Little Italy.

The state will also toughen the restriction for unvaccinated people who attend indoor "mega-events" of 1,000 people or more, requiring them to receive a negative COVID-19 test within one day of the event if it's a rapid antigen test or within two days for a PCR test. The current rules require a test within 72 hours of the event.

State officials will also recommend, but not require, that people who travel to California or return to the state after traveling be tested for COVID-19 within three to five days.

CDPH Dr. Mark Ghaly said state officials also acted in hopes of avoiding the dramatic surge in cases experienced statewide last year during the winter holiday months, when cases across the state averaged more than 100 per 100,000 people. Nearly 20,000 people died during an eight-week period in which vaccines were not yet available.

San Diego County health officials announced last Thursday that the first case of the omicron variant of COVID-19 has been detected among a San Diegan who was fully vaccinated and boosted against the disease. The second case was confirmed a day later, among a person who had no recent travel history.

A total of 562 new COVID-19 infections and 12 additional deaths in San Diego were reported on Wednesday.

Franco Flores, a barbershop owner said he thinks the mandate is "in polite terms, baloney."

"As a human being, you gotta ask yourself the question, 'How do I feel today? I feel good. I don’t need a mask.' But if you don’t feel good, stay away from people. It’s that simple," Flores said.

Flores lost one of his three shops during the pandemic. He was sick of the rules changing and decided to make his own rules, he told NBC 7.

"Be respectful to those who want to wear masks, let them wear their masks. If someone wants to come in and we can physically see, or if we needed to, check their temperature," he said. "If they’re not sick, it's their God-given right not to wear a mask, it's my business, I believe it’s my choice."

A new variant, named B.1.1.529, was named a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization and given the name “omicron” from the letter in the Greek alphabet.

Robin Yeman hadn’t heard about the mandate being reinstated until we asked her about it. For her, the larger picture and end game are what is hard to see.

“Yea it’s definitely worth it to keep people safe, but then how many of these shots do you have to have when are you considered safe enough that you don’t have to wear a mask everywhere you go?” Yeman wondered.

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