California expands Covid restrictions as Delta variant threat grows

California’s public health agency this week recommended that people wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status, one of several steps taken across the state as part of an urgent effort to curb the rise of coronavirus infections.

“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, the state’s public health officer, in a statement on Wednesday.

Intussen, counties, stede, school districts and employers across the state have announced their own measures around masking and vaccinations, sometimes going further than federal and state recommendations.

Although case numbers in California remain well below the winter peak, infections and hospitalizations are rising and health officials fear that not enough people are vaccinated to curb the spread of the Delta variant. In California, meer as 62% of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, but vaccination rates vary widely across counties.

With its indoor masking recommendation, California is following the lead of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state officials said. The CDC reversed course on masking rules on Tuesday and advised fully vaccinated people to mask up in public indoor settings in areas where transmission is high or substantial.

California officials said more than 90% of the state’s nearly 40 million residents live in areas where community spread is high or substantial. The seven-day positivity rate in the state has jumped to 5.9% van 1.4% a month ago.

Dr Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, said the vaccine protects most people from becoming seriously ill or dying. But she added that unlike with previous variants, new data shows that vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant “have the potential to spread that virus to others”.

Los Angeles, Sacramento and Yolo counties have instituted mask mandates for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, indoors. San Francisco’s mayor, London Breed, said her city was considering similar measures.

In other measures to curb transmission, the California governor, Gavin Newsom, said on Monday that more than 2.4 million state and healthcare workers will have to provide proof of vaccination or be tested.

The announcement came shortly before Joe Biden required federal workers to sign forms attesting they have been vaccinated or else comply with new rules that include mandatory masking, weekly testing and distancing.

In announcing the vaccinate-or-test policy this week, Newsom said he wanted to encourage other employers to do the same, and several cities, school districts and private employers followed suit.

San Francisco is requiring new hires get vaccinated or get an exemption before they start work, while an estimated 35,000 employees already on the job must show proof of inoculation, seek an exemption or risk disciplinary action once the vaccines are given full approval by the Food and Drug Administration.

California State University, the largest four-year university system in the US, had already announced it was requiring faculty, staff and students to be immunized against Covid-19 if they plan to be on campus this fall.

In San Jose schools, officials will require everyone to mask up indoors and outdoors. The San Jose Unified school district, met meer as 30,000 studente, also said it will require teachers and staff to get inoculated against the coronavirus or get tested twice a week for the coronavirus.

The Los Angeles school district will require all students and employees to take weekly coronavirus tests, regardless of their vaccination status.

Google and Uber this week backtracked on plans to welcome most workers back to offices in September, becoming the latest in a list of Silicon Valley companies to delay reopening. The companies also said they would be rolling out a policy that will eventually require everyone who returns in person to be vaccinated.

Apple and Netflix had earlier said they would postpone calling employees back to the office. Twitter also halted reopening plans and closed offices last week due to the Delta variant.

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