Californians will be required to wear face masks in all indoor public settings -- regardless of vaccination status -- starting this week.
State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced the mask mandate during a Monday afternoon teleconference. The requirement takes effect Wednesday, Dec. 15, and will remain in place until Jan. 15.
It’s something that barber Tyrone Belcher and his boss Crystal Vasquez at the Explicit Barbershop in North Park will have to prepare this coming Wednesday.
"Well, I mean safety is paramount. We're in close contact with our clients the entire service,” said Belcher.
"So, hopefully, with this new virus strain that's out, we can kind of nip it in the bud or slow it down a little bit with mask-wearing. But the profit-wise, it kind of sucks,” said Vasquez.
Most vaccinated people were getting used to not wearing a face-covering indoors.
"It's hard to work out in a mask. So, that's kind of why I'm kind of not glad to hear it. But, if that's the rule, I'm going to still adhere to it," said Mariana Constable, who was leaving a gym in North Park.
According to Ghaly, Californians who are not vaccinated and attend so-called “mega” events (gatherings of 1,000 people or more) must receive a negative PCR COVID-19 test within two days of the event or a rapid test within one day of the event.
Travelers returning to or visiting California are being asked — not required — to take a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after arrival.
Ghaly said the requirement is being implemented due to a nearly 50% increase in COVID-19 cases since the Thanksgiving holiday. Ghaly added that the state’s case rate is rising faster in counties struggling to get vaccinated.
Experts said proactive protection is needed with the omicron variant now arriving in San Diego and other parts of the state.
"The velocity in which this variant is taking hold in the US, the infectiousness requires us to go back to masking, and that's for the protection of unvaccinated but also vaccinated,” said UCSD Health's Dr. Francesca Torriani.
Under current state guidelines -- which are followed by many counties including Riverside, Orange, and San Diego -- masks are only required indoors at public transit facilities such as airports, healthcare settings, adult and senior care facilities, schools, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers.
The state already technically requires mask-wearing for unvaccinated people at indoor public facilities, but the new rule will impact everyone regardless of vaccine status.
Monday, Torriani told ABC 10News she thinks that the mandate could last longer.
"If people remain resistant at vaccinating. We really need those vaccination rates to go very, very high to protect those who can't get vaccinated or is immunocompromised,” said Torriani.
Jermaine Ong at KGTV in San Diego first reported this story.