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What the lift of indoor mask mandate means for Kern County

Posted: 5:14 PM, Feb 28, 2022
Updated: 2022-03-02 11:17:07-05
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Face masks have been a way of life for two years now, but thanks to a new announcement from Governor Gavin Newsom, changes are coming.

Masks will no longer be required, but will be strongly recommended for unvaccinated individuals in most indoor settings.

Although the mask mandate will end for Californians in most indoor places, masks will still be required for everyone in high transmission areas like public transit, emergency shelters, and health care facilities, among others.

“The issues around enforcement, whether it's at the state or local level, have been tricky throughout the pandemic. We want to make sure that our messaging is not just one of law but one that really is one that empowers communities to pay attention to the health risks and health factors that might drive that decision,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of California Health and Human Services.

In addition to the lift of the indoor mask mandate, California officials also stated that starting March 12 masks will not be required in schools and childcare facilities but will still be strongly recommended.

“We recognize the real difference in risks for young people from infection for severe disease and we don't dismiss that in any way. California has said from the beginning, keeping schools safe is one of our key strategies, key points of focus, and I think this announcement and the staging and timing really drive that point home.”

Even though the mask mandate will lift, Kern County still ranks high in community transmission. Dr. Ghaly adds this is why people need to know the difference between masks still being recommended versus being optional.

“Something to reinforce, that we’re not just moving from required to optional but that there’s gradations here and we expect as California’s conditions continue to improve that we can move our strong recommendation down to a recommendation in the near future.”

Additionally, with this new state-level guidance, Ghaly said that people should still be aware that local jurisdictions may decide to keep or add regulations.

Kern High School District stated Monday that masks will not be required starting March 12 and will continue to work closely with local and state health officials to ensure schools remain a safe place for students.

“The anticipation for preparing around a change, if that's what a district decides to do, if that's what a county decides to do, will take a little bit of time and that we will sort of get through this period and really allow some of those local characteristics drive the decision.”

California officials are optimistic that if we cut transmission rates by 25% or even 50% more in the next 11 days, that will create an even lower risk of individuals masked or unmasked from getting infected in schools.

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Changes Made on February 28, 2022:

  • Effective March 1, 2022 , the requirement that unvaccinated individuals mask in indoor public settings will move to a strong recommendation  that all persons, regardless of vaccine status, continue indoor masking. 
  • Universal masking shall remain required in specified high-risk settings.
  • After March 11, 2022, the universal masking requirement for K-12 and Childcare settings will terminate. CDPH strongly recommends that individuals in these settings continue to mask in indoor settings when the universal masking requirement lifts.

With the drop in statewide numbers leading the way for relaxed mask mandates, 23ABC is taking an in-depth look at the latest COVID facts issued by the state's public health department.

California's test positivity rate is down to just shy of 3 percent. This total translates to only 19.5 new cases per 100,000 people.

As for the daily average of deaths, that number is less than one per 100,000.

Finally, a little more than 83-percent of California's eligible population has received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

As for Kern, the county's test positivity rate sitting at 4.3 percent. That amounting to a little more than 21 new cases per 100,000.

The daily death rate here in Kern County is less than the statewide average at 0.3 per 100,000.

The biggest difference between the state and county's numbers is the vaccination rate. Almost 60-percent of Kern's eligible population is at least partially vaccinated, while the state's total is 23-percent higher.