The continued rise of new COVID cases throughout the state, especially those from the Omicron and Delta variants, is pushing California health officials to keep the public informed and protected during the Christmas holiday season. 

According to data collected in November and early December, California Department of Public Health officials have confirmed 4,909,188 COVID-19 cases — the current average daily rate of cases stood at 5,307 — and 74,996 deaths since the pandemic began.

The number of new cases remains high among those who are not vaccinated. According to Public Health, unvaccinated people were 7.1 times more likely get COVID-19  (from data collected between Nov. 28 and Dec. 4); 12.8 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 (from data collected Nov. 21 to Nov. 27); and 15.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 (from data collected Nov. 14 to Nov. 20) than people who were vaccinated.

Latinos (52.3%) have had the largest number of COVID cases (52.3%) and deaths (45.5%), in the state, followed by whites, Asians and African Americans.

These totals are expected to increase as more people travel into and out of California through Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Health officials reinstated the wearing of face masks in all indoor settings — whether vaccinated or not — on Dec. 15, and the mandate will stay in place at least through Jan.15.

The following individuals are exempt from wearing masks at all times:

Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.

Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.

Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

For those who plan to attend a “mega-event” this holiday season (crowds greater than 1,000 indoors and greater than 10,000 outdoors), if you cannot show proof of vaccination you must then show proof of a negative test result from an antigen test within one day of the event, or proof of a negative result from a PCR test within two days of the event before being allowed to enter the venue.

Current antigen and PCR testing methods can detect the Omicron variant and other variants of COVID-19. 

Besides vaccinating, wearing masks, social distancing among people who don’t live with you, good ventilation and the constant washing/sanitizing of your hands, the health department also wants to remind the public to:

— Get Tested. You should immediately get tested for COVID-19 if you are feeling any symptoms — regardless of your vaccination status. COVID-19 symptoms can feel like a common cold (including just “the sniffles”), seasonal allergies, or flu. COVID-19 testing in California is free to anyone who needs it.

— If You Are Returning From a Country of Concern, the CDC recommends that travelers from Southern Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi to test within 3-5 days after arrival, quarantine for 7 days, and isolate and test if COVID-19 symptoms develop.

Most important: if you are ill, stay home.

If you are seeking a free test appointment, walk-in test clinic, or want to buy a self-test kit from your local drugstore, you can find a testing site online by call ing (833) 422-4255 or 211.


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