Just in time for Thanksgiving, a California county is requiring residents who host their friends for the holidays to wear masks in their own homes.
An order issued last week by Santa Cruz County health officer Dr. Gail Newel reinstated the county’s indoor mask mandate in response to an uptick in novel coronavirus cases.
The requirement took effect Monday.
The order included an exception for household members, but emphasized that masks “must be worn in private settings, including your home, when non-household members are present.”
“Unfortunately, a potential winter surge appears to be a significant threat to the health and safety of our community,” said Dr. Newel in a Friday 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.”
The rule, which applies to residents regardless of vaccination status, allows individuals to remove their masks “when they are actively performing an activity that cannot be done while wearing a face covering,” such as eating or drinking.
The order asks the sheriff, police chiefs, and law-enforcement officers to “ensure compliance with and enforce this Order,” adding that violations are punishable “by fine, imprisonment, or both.”
Santa Cruz lifted its previous mask mandate Sept. 29, but Dr. Newel said in her order that cases had risen by 29% in the last 14 days.
“To help assure compliance, all businesses and governmental entities must require employees to wear masks and post signage that is clearly visible and easy-to-read at all entry points for indoor settings informing the public of the mask requirement,” said the county press release. “Those working in a closed room or office alone or with members of their household do not have to wear a mask.”
California is known for imposing some of the nation’s strictest pandemic mask mandates. The state currently requires facial coverings on public transportation, health-care facilities and indoor K-12 schools, and masks for unvaccinated people in stores, restaurants and other indoor public places.