OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Northern California's Alameda County said Thursday it will reinstate an indoor mask policy as COVID-19 hospitalizations steadily increase in the nation’s most populous state.
Daily new hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 have exceeded last summer's peak and the mandate is meant to “reflect the seriousness of the moment” during another surge in coronavirus cases in California, Alameda County's health officer, Dr. Nicholas Moss, said in a statement.
“We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end. Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities," Moss said.
The county with 1.7 million residents just across the bay from San Francisco will require face coverings in most indoor settings starting Friday at midnight.
While some school districts and universities have reinstated mask rules, Alameda is the first county to do so. California’s current surge is most pronounced within the nine-county Bay Area, which last week topped 50 new cases per 100,000 residents, up from 18 per 100,000 a month earlier.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends masks indoors when a county enters the “high” COVID community level, the most severe in a three-tier system.
Los Angeles County, home to 10 million people, is in the “medium" tier but could reach the highest level by the end of the month, increasing stress on the health care system, according to Barbara Ferrer, the public health director.
Ferrer on Thursday applauded Alameda County for “being proactive on making sure that they’re looking at their community data and making decisions that offer the maximum protection.”
Over the past two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new coronavirus cases in California has jumped 31%.
Statewide hospitalizations topped 2,500 after falling below 1,000 at the lowest point in April. State models forecast the number will grow to about 5,200 by late June, the highest since February but a far cry from the more than 15,000 in hospitals at the start of the year.