California has extended its indoor masking requirement through February 15, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced on Wednesday.
The current requirement was set to expire on January 15 but has been extended due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the Omicron variant.
Ghaly said during Wednesday's teleconference that the mandate will be reevaluated as it gets closer to the expiration date.
He said that there are approximately 51,000 hospitalizations across the state. A little more than 8,000 COVID-19 cases are currently admitted. However, a “significant number of cases” are related to heart disease, strokes, diabetes, respiratory diseases other than the coronavirus, and surgery recovery. Ghaly added that the level of preparedness and tools are more significant now than they were during the summer surge. However, hospital admissions are still a concern. At this time last year, total hospitalizations statewide were beginning to peak at about 53,000.
Ghaly also noted that under an executive order signed by Governor Gavin Newson last fall, California has brought in Nearly 1,800 out-of-state medical professionals to offer support to more than 150 medical facilities.
What are metrics for lifting mask mandate?— Emily Hoeven (@emily_hoeven) January 5, 2022
Ghaly: We're looking at where we are with our hospital systems, if pressure is improving. We'll look at total COVID picture, burden on our hospitals, understand where we are on variants, and make a decision. But masking is v important.
California hospitals have also admitted more pediatric patients on a day-to-day basis in the last few days, than they did at the peak of the last winter surge. Ghaly said the "good news is children's hospitals and others that care for the young have been well supported and are able to take on the current demand."
Listen: News Channel 3's Jennifer Franco Question During Dr. Ghaly's Teleconference
Although admissions are up, they generally involve young people with underlying conditions. Not many children are being admitted into the ICU for COVID-19. Ghaly said state health officials are working with their hospital partners to ensure they plan for increased hospitalizations in the future. They are also looking to expand testing sites to make sure the burden of testing is not on hospitals.
Ghaly said 6.2 million tests have been delivered to county offices of education across the state. He added officials are working to ensure schools and businesses stay open by providing "the tools and the path" to do so safely.
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