Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s secretary of health and human services, announced Monday that, starting Wednesday , all Californians must resume face coverings in public indoor locations regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated.

It’s a big change to the state’s masking policy, which was loosened on July 28, allowing those who are fully vaccinated to venture indoors without covering up in most locations though transit hubs, K-12 schools and health care settings have never relaxed.

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Ghaly said that the guideline, which is set to run through Jan. 15, is not intended to govern private gatherings in residents’ homes but rather in public venues such as businesses and entertainment locations.

He said concern over a statewide coronavirus case rate that has increased from 9.6 cases per 100,000 to more than 14 since Thanksgiving prompted the move.

“This is a critical time where we have a tool that we know has worked and we are proactively putting this tool of universal indoor masking in public settings to ensure we get through a time of joy and hope without a darker cloud of concern and despair,” Ghaly said. “Californians have done this before, and of course we believe we can do it again.”

In addition, the executive said the state will also require anyone attending a “mega event” with more than 1,000 attendees who does not show proof of vaccination to show a negative COVID-19 test taken in the previous 24 hours if it’s a rapid antigen test or two days if it’s a PCR test. The previous requirement was that negative results be dated in the 72 hours previous to the event date.

“Given the breadth and availability of tests, the fact that turnaround times are speedier than they were in the past, this seems appropriate,”Ghaly said.

A third recommendation is for those returning to or visiting California to have a coronavirus test within three to five days of arrival.

This story originally appeared in San Diego Union-Tribune.

©2021 The San Diego Union-Tribune. Visit sandiegouniontribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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