Indoor masking returns to Santa Cruz County ahead of holidays

Indoor masking is coming back to Santa Cruz County.

Health officials say they made the decision based on current case rates, and what they see on the horizon.

The deputy health officers says hospitalizations were down to zero recently, but now that number is between 5 and 8.

Officials say they hope masking up indoors will help stop the trend

Roberto Miranda is one Santa Cruz resident pleased to see the indoor mask mandate return, saying he needs all the protection he can get, since he’s already fighting for his life

"I have cancer, stage 4.  I got two cancers.  I got my liver and cancer in my back, said Miranda.

Santa Cruz County Health officials say COVID-19 cases have bumped up to roughly 27 a day, a 29% increase in two weeks, and if history repeats, cases will also rise after Thanksgiving.  

"So, we're concerned going into the holidays that we're going to continue to see another rise like we did last year," said Dr. David Ghilarducci, Deputy Health Officer of Santa Cruz County.

Beginning Monday, the county will make masks wearing mandatory indoors vaccinated or not, with few exceptions, not only at businesses but even inside homes when around visitors, like during Thanksgiving.

"Personally, my family we’re planning on doing our Thanksgiving celebration outside," said Ghilarducci.

Inside is where the virus is most likely to spread.

Though many businesses never lifted their mask mandate, the county did at the end of September, but officials say current case rates and forecasts justify bringing masks back.

"I think it's fine.  I think it's appropriate if cases are going up," said Deborah Marks.

"It just kind of seems back and forth in this county like every other month is, you don't have to wear the mask, you do have to wear the mask," said Alex Rosas.

Santa Cruz County health officials say their reintroduced mask rules could be a prelude to other Bay Area Counties.

"Those counties that have dropped their mask mandates may react the same way, there are others that have kept their mask mandates in place," said Ghilarducci.

Officials say 71% of those eligible in the county are already vaccinated, but they want that number higher.

Masks, they say, are one of the few tools they have available to help reduce transmission.

Roberto Miranda says he’s glad indoor face coverings are returning to help him avoid another life-threatening disease. 

"So, for me, it's scary because I cannot be sure if I get infected, I got less possibilities to survive."

Based on current data, and knowledge about how the virus spread last year, county health officials say it’s likely the indoor mask mandate will continue through the early part of next year.