On July 20, California Governor Gavin Newsom, amid increasing Covid 19 infections in the state, urged every eligible resident to get vaccinated. When asked about other preventative measures, the governor, who is facing a recall election in September, said increased vaccination was all the state needed.
“The answer to the Delta variant is vaccination,” said Newsom. “We don’t need masking. Just get vaccinated.”
What a difference a week — ok, eight days — makes.
In response to the spike in Covid cases and hospitalizations and new CDC guidance calling for masking measures to prevent the spread of the highly-transmissible Delta variant, the California Department of Public Health updated its Guidance for Face Coverings, recommending mask use for indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.
“The Delta variant has caused a sharp increase in hospitalizations and case rates across the state. We are recommending masking in indoor public places to slow the spread while we continue efforts to get more Californians vaccinated,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer.
One of the most trusted data points, the number of cases per 100,000 people, has risen from 7.2 when Newsom made his statement about masks last week to 12.7 per 100,000 on Wednesday. That’s a more than fivefold increase from where it was when Newsom reopened the state on June 15, at 2.2 per 100,000. By his own Blueprint for a Safer Economy tier system, which before June 15 limited business capacity and required masking in various situations, infections in the state are now deemed “Widespread.”
The CDC’s new guidance puts more than 90% of California’s population in areas designated as substantial or high transmission. Los Angeles County already reintroduced a mask requirement in mid-July.
According to the CDC, getting vaccinated helps protect from the virus and circulating variants, including the Delta variant that is now seen in the majority of California’s new cases. But, thanks to the Delta variant, even vaccinated people can pass on the virus to those more vulnerable, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, who spoke with CNN this morning. See clip below.
.@CDCDirector Dr. Rochelle Walensky on the new mask guidance: "With prior variances, when people had these rare breakthrough infections, we didn't see the capacity of them to spread the virus to others. But with the Delta variant … you can actually now pass it to somebody else" pic.twitter.com/K1qvfjNUrX
— New Day (@NewDay) July 28, 2021
Certainly, Californians are weary of masking, with many rejoicing June 15 when restrictions were lifted. A recent Inside California Politics/Emerson College poll, however, found, as of late July, that more Californians supported an indoor mask mandate than not. 49% of Californians support a statewide indoor mask mandate, while 39% oppose one, according to the survey of more than 1,000 registered voters. Thirteen percent of residents are undecided or have no opinion. The poll had a margin of error of +/-2.9% and was conducted last week.
This week, California became the first state to require state workers and health care employees to provide proof of vaccination or submit to regular testing. California had also led with its K-12 school guidance, requiring universal masking and other prevention measures as schools fully open for the upcoming school year.