Keep wearing masks

California will keep its COVID-19 mask rules in place through June 15, state health officials announced this week.

The announcement came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a seismic shift in its recommendations, saying those who’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely unmask and disregard distancing requirements in many instances.

Following that new guidance, states across the country, including Oregon, updated their own rules to allow the fully vaccinated to unmask in some settings.

But California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Monday the state would wait to lift its mandate until June 15, when state officials plan to lift most pandemic restrictions.

“On June 15, California plans to implement the CDC’s guidelines around masking to allow fully vaccinated Californians to go without a mask in most indoor settings. This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change while we continue our relentless focus on delivering vaccines, particularly in underserved communities,” Ghaly said in a statement.

For the time being, the state’s mask guidance still applies, meaning generally face coverings are required indoors regardless of vaccination status and unvaccinated people must mask outdoors where distancing can’t be maintained.

“We urge all Californians to get vaccinated to ensure that infection and hospitalization rates remain low across the state and that we can all return to the activities we love,” Ghaly said.

Locally, Del Norte County will remain in the red tier of the state’s pandemic restrictions for a 15th week. It’s one of just 10 counties which remains in that level of restrictions.

The county’s 3.4% test positivity rate and 14.5 cases per day per 100,000 in population are still some of the highest in the state.

According to the county’s public health department, there were 29 active cases of the virus in the county as of Tuesday.

As of the same afternoon, 53% of the state’s population had received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including just under 16,000 doses administered to Del Norte County residents.

County health officials are still holding weekly vaccination events on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds. Limited clinics are also available at Smith River Elementary School. Registration is available online at https://myturn.as.me/schedule.php or by calling 707-951-6679.

Sutter Health is also offering clinics on Thursdays and Fridays. More information is online at www.sutterhealth.org/coast/for-patients/health-alerts/covid-19-vaccine.

A handful of local pharmacies are also offering vaccines: RiteAid is making appointments online at www.riteaid.com/covid-19, Safeway is making appointments online at www.safeway.com/pharmacy/covid-19.html​ and Walgreens is making appointments online at www.walgreens.com/findcare/vaccination/covid-19​ or by phone at 1-800-WALGREENS.

Walmart is also making vaccine appointments online at www.walmart.com/COVIDvaccine.

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