Santa Cruz County reimplemented an indoor mask requirement Friday in advance of an anticipated winter COVID-19 surge and indoor gatherings for the holidays.
The mask requirement, which goes into effect Sunday at 11:59 p.m., will apply to everyone in the county regardless of their vaccination status.
In addition to applying in public spaces like grocery stores and offices, the mandate will also apply in private settings like a person’s home when members of another household are present, according to the county.
While businesses and governmental offices will be required to post signage about the mask requirement, the county did not state how masking in private gatherings will be enforced.
“Unfortunately, a potential winter surge appears to be a significant threat to the health and safety of our community,” county Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said in a statement. “As we look forward to spending time with those we love during the holidays, it is important to protect vulnerable friends and family members by wearing a mask indoors.”
Newel previously issued an indoor mask requirement during the state’s late-summer rise in COVID-19 cases spurred by the highly contagious delta variant.
That mandate was lifted Sept. 29 after the county moved into the “moderate” tier of community transmission, the second-lowest level of viral spread as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As of Friday, Santa Cruz County was in the “substantial” transmission tier, the second-highest.
As with the county’s previous masking order, masks will not be required during a handful of indoor activities that cannot effectively be done while wearing one, including eating, drinking, swimming, showering at a fitness center or receiving medical or cosmetic services.
The mask requirement will remain in place indefinitely, according to the county, “until is rescinded, superseded, or amended in writing by” Newel.
County officials plan to monitor variables like hospitalizations, virus variants and local case and vaccination rates to determine when it will be safe to lift the mandate.
Local information about COVID-19 can be found by visiting santacruzhealth.org/coronavirus or by calling (831) 454-4242 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.