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Shoppers in masks emerge from Walmart in Calexico on Dec. 1. The Imperial County Health Officer issued a universal indoor mask order on Tuesday, Aug. 17, effective the next day. | FILE PHOTO

Universal Indoor Masking Order Issued for Imperial County

IMPERIAL COUNTY — A universal indoor masking order, requiring the use of face coverings regardless of vaccine status, was issued by Imperial County Health Officer, Dr. Stephen Munday, on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

The goal of the order is to protect our community and local healthcare system from a major resurgence of COVID-19 cases and to allow businesses and services in Imperial County to remain open, according to an Imperial County Public Health Department media release.

Imperial County Public Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday | COURTESY IMAGE

Under the new order, Imperial County residents and visitors are required to wear face coverings in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and workplaces, such as but not limited to offices, retail stores, restaurants and bars, theaters, family entertainment centers, conference centers, and government offices, the press release states.  

The order is in addition to the state health officer order that requires face coverings for all individuals in public transit, indoor K-12 schools, childcare settings, emergency shelters, cooling centers, healthcare settings, correctional facilities, and detention centers, and homeless shelters, and also requires face coverings for all unvaccinated individuals in any indoor public settings, according to the release. 

The local health officer order goes into effect Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021, at noon. The full health officer order is available on the ICPHD website.

The local universal masking order is in response to a recent rise in local, statewide, and national COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths due to the Delta variant. This action aligns with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and California Department of Public Health guidelines and orders. The seven-day average cases per 100,000 for Imperial County is currently 12.3, an increase from 9.5 reported last week. Additionally, 24 more cases of the Delta variant have been identified in the last week, bringing the cumulative total to 46 Delta cases identified in Imperial County. San Diego and Riverside are currently experiencing sharp increases in case counts as well. 

“The continued rise in cases is of utmost concern, particularly in our neighboring counties who help support our local healthcare system,” stated Dr. Munday in the release. “Out of an abundance of caution, indoor face covering is being required as a simple, effective way to help us slow the spread of COVID-19 and to help reduce the number of preventable hospitalizations and deaths in our community. I am grateful to the more than 70 percent of Imperial County residents 12 and older who are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19. All eligible Imperial County residents who have not yet been vaccinated are urged to do so to protect themselves and their families and friends.” 

There are some exceptions to the order. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Persons working alone in a closed office or room;
  •  Persons actively eating and/or drinking;
  • Persons swimming or showering in a fitness facility.

Additionally, the following individualsare exempt from wearing masks at all times, per CDPH guidance:

  • Persons younger than 2 years old; 
  • 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. As appropriate, non-restrictive alternatives must be used;
  • 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. As appropriate, non-restrictive alternatives must be used; and
  • 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. 

Individuals exempt from wearing face coverings in public indoor settings are required to wear a face shield with a cloth drape attached at the bottom unless otherwise advised by their physician.  

COVID-19 vaccines are available for individuals 12 years and older and easily accessible at many provider sites throughout Imperial County, including health care offices, hospitals, community clinics, pharmacies, as well as the Imperial County Public Health Department. To locate a vaccine site near you, visit VaccineFinder at http://vaccinefinder.org. To make an appointment through California’s MyTurn system, visit https://myturn.ca.gov or call (833)-422-4255.

Imperial County residents are also urged to continue to follow COVID-19 safety precautions including frequent handwashing, maintain appropriate distance in public, and staying at home when sick.