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February 2, 2023

Health officers recommend return to indoor masking

Officials from San Benito, three other counties, issued new recommendations

Health officers of four Central Coast counties—including San Benito—issued a joint statement again recommending that residents wear masks indoors at public places, regardless of vaccination status “out of an abundance of caution,” says the statement.

The recommendation comes as local reports of the highly infectious Covid-19 Delta variant are increasing, according to the statement from the health officers of San Benito, Monterey, Napa and Santa Cruz counties. Bay Area counties last week issued a similar recommendation to resume mask guidelines that were mandatory for several months at the height of the pandemic.

The new recommendations encourage people to wear masks indoors at locations such as grocery stores, retail, theaters and family entertainment centers, even if they are vaccinated.

The health officers also encourage businesses to adopt universal masking requirements for customers entering their indoor businesses, in order to provide better protection for their employees and customers, says the statement. Doing so will allow businesses to make sure unvaccinated people are wearing masks.

Businesses must also follow Cal/OSHA workplace requirements.

The health officers noted that the Delta variant of Covid-19 is spreading quickly in their respective counties, and hospitalizations of unvaccinated people are again increasing.

“The Delta variants are easier to pass from person to person,” says the joint statement from the four county health officers. “The health officers urge everyone to take action to protect themselves and others by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask indoors and in crowded settings.”

In June, the Delta variant comprised 43% of all Covid-19 specimens collected in California. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Delta variants are now responsible for 58% of new infections across the country.

Fully vaccinated people are well protected from infections and serious illness due to Covid-19 including the Delta variants, according to the health officers. “Vaccinating as many people as possible, as soon as possible, continues to be our best defense against severe Covid-19 infection and the harm it can do to our region,” says the health officers’ statement.

Vaccines are free and widely available to everyone 12 years and older. Visit or call 2-1-1 to find a vaccination site near you.

In the coming weeks, the Health Officers will revisit the recommendation for everyone to mask indoors in public settings as they continue to monitor transmission rates, hospitalizations, deaths and increasing vaccination rates throughout the region.

On June 15, Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the statewide mask mandate that had been in place since the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. Since then, vaccination rates throughout California have gone up, but the coronavirus has continued to mutate and spread among unvaccinated people.

As of July 17, there have been 6,200 cases of Covid-19 reported in San Benito County, according to the county’s website. Sixty-three local residents have died with Covid-19, and 252 have been hospitalized. 

According to the California Department of Public Health website, there have been 64,214 doses of vaccinations administered in San Benito County. 

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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