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Santa Cruz County requiring indoor mask use starting midnight Friday

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KION) Come midnight on Friday, all Santa Cruz County residents will be under a new mask mandate that will impact everyone regardless of their vaccination status.

This order comes on the heels of a steady uptick in cases and hospitalizations because of the Delta variant.

It will impact when people go indoors at most businesses, with restaurants having some exceptions while eating. If you are outside, then it is up to you, although in crowded areas masks are still recommended.

"It felt like an order was in order," said Dr. Gail Newel, the Santa Cruz County health officer.

Dr. Newel says the county's case rate continues to grow, but at a slower pace right now. Hospitals, however, are at full capacity.

"We really want to protect our hospitals and healthcare systems to the fullest extent that we can," said Dr. Newel.

"I feel very good about it. I feel like we need to do everything we can to keep us all safe," said Jane Uyematsu, a Soquel resident.

The unvaccinated population is still at the greatest risk of serious disease from COVID-19 and the Delta variant. The majority of cases in hopsitals right now are people who are not protected.

The new mask order applies ---

"Anywhere that you're indoors other than alone in a private office or in your own home or with members of your household," said Dr. Newel.

Dr. Newel believes this latest mask mandate did not have to happen, but residents that KION came across in the field seemed supportive.

"We're going backwards in the amount of getting COVID exposure but we're not going backwards in protection," said Dr. Charles M. Goodwin, a Santa Cruz resident.

"If we had more people vaccinated, this order probably wouldn't have been necessary," said Dr. Newel.

This mask order will extend unitl transmission rates decreas to more manageable levels. Dr. Newel believes that will be attainable in the next few weeks.

PREVIOUS STORY: Santa Cruz County residents will soon be required to wear face coverings in indoor settings again, even if they have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

The County said that due to an increase in cases and hospitalizations resulting from the spread of the Delta Variant, the Santa Cruz County Health Officer issued a Health Order requiring a face covering in indoor settings. It takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 20.

“While vaccination remains the best and most effective tool in preventing COVID-19, the Delta variant spreads quickly among the unvaccinated and may even be passed between vaccinated persons, although their symptoms are usually mild. Face coverings will provide added protection until everyone is able to be vaccinated, especially children,” Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said.

The county said the order may "sunset" when the CDC community transmission levels return to moderate levels.

Businesses and government agencies are ordered to require employees to wear masks and post visible signs at entrances to indoor settings. People who work at home or in an office alone or with members of their household do not need to wear masks. Masks also do not need to be worn during indoor activities where they cannot be worn, including while eating, drinking, showering or getting medical or cosmetic services.

The County said the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 infection, hospitalization or death is vaccination.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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Josh Kristianto

Josh Kristianto is a weekend anchor and multi-media journalist at KION News Channel 5/46.

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