California Mask Mandate Ends … For Now?

Illustrated by Bridget Rios

Janice Luong

Opinions Editor

On Feb. 7, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the indoor mask mandates will be lifted for those who are vaccinated on Feb. 15. However, this announcement sparked more skepticism than joy. We’ve heard this announcement before only to impose another mandate again shortly after. 

Although we are now dealing with the Omicron variant, I wonder how long this lift will last until it is imposed once again, and how this mandate will affect those that are disproportionately impacted by this decision. 

California is said to have peaked in the Omicron variant surge already, and Omicron is considered less deadly compared to other COVID-19 variants. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is much easier to spread it, and by lifting mandates, another surge might be anticipated. 

Another point is that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are not as effective against the Omicron variant, so what is it this time? When we temporarily lifted the mask mandates last time, it was for the same reason: because case numbers are dropping. Would this time be any different than the last? Are we only lifting the mandate just to impose another one in the near future? 

It is understandable that people do not want to spend the rest of their lives wearing a mask and wondering when they’ll catch the virus or how bad it might be for them. The frustration is valid, but I wonder how many back and forths we will have to go through. Although case numbers dropped, deaths are still high. In my opinion, it is too early to lift restrictions. 

If we are talking about the UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) community, going back in person was not unanimously good news. Plus, given the statistics of UCSB against COVID-19, positive COVID-19 cases are still rising despite a high vaccination rate of 98.5 percent. COVID-19 is becoming more overlooked, and people are living like normal during this long pandemic. Again, this is understandable, but now there’s one presentable caveat: those who are immunocompromised. 

People with immunocompromised family members or who are immunocompromised themselves are the ones that will be neglected and hurt from the mask mandates being lifted. It was already difficult to protect themselves with the restrictions, but now with mandates lifted, they will be at an even greater risk. Since the announcement on the mandate lift, immunocompromised activists are worried their community might be at risk. 

My final consensus is that the mask mandate lift is not an endgame for this pandemic with vaccines being less effective this time around. I am confused and baffled as to why the state quickly decided to lift the mandates when the numbers are just beginning to fall, but I also understand people do not want to just wear masks for the rest of their lives. Ultimately, I am in an ambivalent position, but I hope that those who are disproportionately affected by this decision will be accommodated at the very least.