After the California Department of Public Health’s decision, Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel officially rescinded her previous mask order. Newel’s order, issued June 25, 2021, made it a misdemeanor to avoid social distancing and wearing a mask when inside of any indoor public space, when obtaining health services, when waiting for or riding on public transportation, when engaging in work and when operating a public transportation vehicle. Business owners were to require their employers and other associated parties to wear a mask when interacting with the public or preparing their food as well as when interacting with one another.
Face coverings were encouraged but not required when people were outdoors getting physical activity through walking, hiking, cycling or running. Today, unvaccinated persons must continue to wear masks outdoors when they cannot social distance, no matter whether they are in a crowd or not.
Newel listed nearby tourist destinations such as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Wharf as well as Fisherman’s Wharf in nearby Monterey County as areas that people will have to continue to mask up regardless of vaccination status. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks in indoor settings outside of their household, such as in stores or on public transportation. Fully vaccinated individuals, however, have the benefit of gathering indoors with other fully vaccinated individuals or those unvaccinated that do not have a high risk of serious illness from the virus without wearing masks or maintaining six feet apart.
“We are looking at our local health officer orders around face coverings and have heard from the state that it will be aligning with the CDC,” she said at the time. “For now, we have the longstanding state orders around face coverings still in place in California which is stricter than the CDC … we expect state orders to align with the CDC’s and at that time I plan to rescind the local orders.” Newel teased the possibility of updated masking guidelines at the health leadership press conference last Thursday.
Public Health included the background in its updated guidelines that included what epidemiologists had learned about COVID-19 in more than a year, including the facts that a lot of people do not have symptoms when they are COVID-positive and that the virus is transmitted through the air but concentrates indoors. New cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still being recorded across the state daily — a reason to continue taking precautions. Few exceptions are listed, such as when people are riding in a car alone or with members of their own household or if they are working alone in a closed room. Those younger than 2 years old or with medical, mental health or disability conditions that prevent them from wearing a face mask are exempt at all times.
The guidance is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand hygiene recommendations. Additionally, employers are still subject to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards to ensure the safety of workers through efforts such as masking. To learn about proper masking through selection in face mask types, fit and filtration, visit https://bit.ly/3eRRz6l. “The risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection will continue to remain until we reach community immunity from vaccinations,” State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said. “A well-fitting face covering can provide the wearer some protection from COVID-19.”
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- Health Officer Reverses Face Cover Order and Aligns Santa Cruz County with State – Santa Cruz Sentinel
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