CENTRAL VALLEY, Calif. (KGPE) – The California Department of Health announced a statewide mask mandate until January 15th.

The mandate requires everyone to wear a mask indoors no matter vaccination status for the next 30 days.

“This is the added protection just to keep the community safe and not to see our numbers in terms of COVID incident,” said Tulare Public Health Director Karen Elliot.

The mandate comes as COVID variants including Omicron and Delta continue to spread.

“There has been an increase or spike across the state,” said Dr. Kenny Banh with UCSF Fresno.

According to the California Department of Health, since Thanksgiving weekly COVID case rates statewide have increased by 47%, and hospitalizations are up 14%.

However, the trend is the opposite in the Central Valley.

State data shows that COVID-related hospitalizations since November 5 have dropped 41% in Fresno County, 57% in Tulare County, and 36% in Madera County.

Just a few weeks ago, Kaweah Health had the highest number of COVID-positive patients out of all hospitals in California. Those numbers have dramatically decreased, which Chief Executive Officer Gary Herbst credits to vaccines, natural immunity from recovering from the virus, and unfortunately death.

“Why are COVID numbers declining?” questioned Herbst. “Sadly we have seen a lot of deaths. We had 17 COVID deaths in a single week just a couple of weeks ago.”

New COVID cases have slightly increased in the Central Valley recently and with holiday gathering and lower vaccination rates than the rest of the state, officials do expect an uptick in the next month.

According to the CDC, valley vaccination rates for the population over the age of 5 are:

  • 52% in Tulare County
  • 52.4% in Madera County
  • 51.2% in Merced County
  • 60% in Fresno County
  • 69.8% in California