BENICIA (CBS SF) – The statewide indoor mask mandate went back into effect Wednesday, with California health officials re-implemented the requirement amid concerns about the omicron variant and a holiday COVID surge.
State health officials on Monday confirmed that an alarming increase in COVID-19 case rates would lead California to reinstitute an indoor mask mandate and other restrictions starting December 15.READ MORE: Fans Rally Behind Road Warrior San Francisco 49ers; Will Tickets Be Available For NFC Championship Game?
San Francisco announced Tuesday that the California Department of Public Health would allow the city to keep its existing mask mandate in place – meaning that stable cohorts of 100% fully vaccinated people in select settings like workspaces and gyms will continue to be allowed to remove masks when the necessary safety measures have been met.
However, residents in other parts of the Bay Area like Benicia in Solano County found themselves being asked to mask up at gyms.
At Benicia Health and Fitness, 15-year member Catarina Mandal was happy to comply.
“We are doing it for safety so the inner feeling is good. You work out. You feel good,” said Mandal.
She said breathing through a mask while working out is sometimes difficult, but worth it for the protection it provides.
Most of the Bay Area’s nine counties already require universal indoor masking under a regional mandate imposed in early August. Only Marin and Solano counties have no indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people. The new statewide mandate is set to be in effect for the next month, expiring on January 15.READ MORE: Hazardous Sneaker Waves Threaten San Francisco Beachcombers
Benicia Health and Fitness General Manager Michael Boyle said it has been a challenge trying to keep up with the constant changes to state and regional COVID policies since March of last year.
“Today everybody’s coming in the building asking, ‘Do I need a mask? Do I not need a mask? What’s going on?’ And I’m having to put masks on them,” explained Boyle. “Whether that holds true or not, I don’t even know anymore, because it’s been such a moving goal post.”
The reinstituted mandate could affect his bottom line.
“January 1st is our biggest time of the year, basically. Everybody makes a New Years resolution and comes in wanting to lose weight and everything,” he said.
Health leaders say the statewide mandate is due to the rapid rise in COVID cases since Thanksgiving. California has seen an increase in COVID-19 rates by almost 50 percent, so health officials want to be proactive in preventing more cases this holiday season.
“I do feel very positive about this. We can do it and we can do it safely,” said Mandal.
Another change that is going into effect impacts so-called “mega events” where there are more than 1,000 people in attendance. Individuals who don’t have proof of vaccination will still be able to attend with a negative COVID-19 test, but results from an antigen test must be within a day of the event. A PCR test must be taken within two days of the event.MORE NEWS: Film Fans Tell New Castro Theatre Managers To Keep It Reel
State health officials were also recommending that travelers visiting or returning to California take a test within three to five days of arrival in the state. However, that would not be a strict requirement.