It's unclear whether Santa Cruz County will give up indoor mask mandates on Feb. 15.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
COVID Today

Statewide mandate for indoor masking to sunset on Feb. 15, but Santa Cruz’s guidelines still uncertain

Whether or not Santa Cruz County Health Officer Gail Newel lifts the mask mandate will depend on what she sees. “She’s going to base it off data like case rates, testing positivity, and effective reproductive number,” said county health spokesperson Corinne Hyland.

As Omicron wanes, it appears that some restrictions could go with it.

On Feb. 15, the statewide mandate for indoor masking will no longer be in effect. However, whether Santa Cruz County will follow suit is not certain. County health spokesperson Corinne Hyland said Health Officer Gail Newel will ultimately determine whether the county rescinds its own mandate.

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“Each county has different masking orders,” Hyland said. “We’ll have to wait and see what Dr. Newel ends up doing when we reach the 15th and she takes a look at our data.”

Case trends have been plummeting in recent weeks, from a nearly 400% weekly increase in mid-January to a 21% increase this past week. Still, this is only one of the measures Newel will use to inform her decision.

“She’s going to base it off data like case rates, testing positivity, and effective reproductive number,” said Hyland.

She’s going to base it off data like case rates, testing positivity, and effective reproductive number.

If the case and positivity rates do continue that drop, Hyland believes it is likely Newel will align with the state’s masking order, but continue to urge diligence. The county had followed the state guidelines ever since shelter-in-place ended until Newel reinstated a mask mandate in November just before the state did ahead of the Omicron surge.

“If we do end up rescinding our local order, wearing a mask indoors will still be strongly recommended,” said Hyland.

And some institutions will not see change. Places like schools, hospitals and other health care settings, and public transit will still need to follow the California Department of Public Health guidance.

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The falling case counts and positivity rate are a welcome sight, but increasing the county’s vaccination rate, currently at 73.1%, is the best way to keep everybody safe in the long run.

“The more people get vaccinated, the more likely we are to return to normal,” said Hyland, adding that children age 4 and younger could be eligible as early as March. “Get vaccinated, get boosted.”