At what point should you mask up again? Here’s what California and CDC guidance says

Renée C. Byer/

Some health officials are recommending masking once again, as multiple respiratory viruses are circulating this winter season and COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise in California.

In Yolo County, the Health and Human Services Agency announced Tuesday its mask recommendation for people 2 years and older in indoor public spaces. This comes after the increasing spread of the flu, respiratory syncytial virus — or RSV — and COVID, which is evident from wastewater testing.

Initially, Yolo County followed a masking guidance based on low, medium and high COVID levels, but with multiple viruses in the air, the agency is looking at combined transmission levels.

Like COVID, the flu and RSV spread through respiratory droplets that can come from coughs and sneezes.

How high is the COVID spread in the Sacramento area?

Sacramento County is still following the California Department of Public Health mask guidance based on low, medium and high community levels.

When levels are “low,” according to the CDPH, masking is a personal preference. The department does advise people who are at higher risk of severe disease to wear a face covering in indoor public spaces.

At a “medium” level, it’s advised that people at lower risk consider masking in crowded indoor public spaces. Those at higher risk are recommended to wear them.

When the region is at a “high” level, the department recommends masking for those at low risk in indoor public spaces and strongly recommends it for those at higher risk.

Sacramento County is at a “medium” level, as of Wednesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With this, the CDC also recommends people who are at high risk for severe disease to talk to their provider about precautions, and those with symptoms, have tested positive or were exposed to a COVID-positive person should wear a mask.

Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties are also at a medium level.

Could mask requirements return to California?

Masking might not be widely advised currently, but that can change.

Earlier this year, California announced its SMARTER Plan to combat COVID in its next phases. The plan maps out processes with ‘s’ signifying shots, ‘m’ for masks, ‘a’ for awareness, ‘r’ for readiness, ‘t’ for testing, ‘e’ for education and ‘r’ for Rx treatment.

For masking, the state urges for adaptability.

“(T)here may be conditions that warrant temporary, targeted and risk-based masking requirements,” according to the SMARTER Plan. “These can be loosened once conditions improve.”

Currently, Sacramento County requires masks in the jail. Under California’s health order, masks are still mandatory statewide in health care settings including hospitals and nursing homes.

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