RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A statewide mandate requiring people to wear masks
in indoor public settings will remain in place until at least Feb. 15, the
state’s Health and Human Services secretary announced today, pointing to rising
COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The state imposed the mandate on Dec. 15, and it had been scheduled to
expire on Jan. 15.
Among the indoor public spaces affected are retail stores,
restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers and government offices that
serve the public.
Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly told reporters the
decision to extend the mandate was the result of rising COVID case numbers, the
high transmission rate of the Omicron variant of the virus and the impact of
increased infections on hospitals across the state.
Ghaly noted that overall hospitalizations in the state — including
COVID and all other patients — had reached 51,000 as of Wednesday morning,
just shy of the peak of 53,000 reached during last winter’s virus surge. The
current number includes about 8,000 COVID-positive patients, he said.
Ghaly said the state is working to get a better breakdown on the
nature of COVID hospital patients to determine how many were admitted for other
reasons and only discovered they were infected when they were tested at the
But regardless of that breakdown, the overall number of
hospitalizations remains concerning, he said.
Ghaly also said residents should consider wearing higher-grade masks,
not simply scarves or loose-fitting cloth face-coverings. He said many masks
that people donned in the early days of the pandemic are “not as helpful
today,” urging people to consider masks that are well-fitted on the face
without gaps or ventilators.
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