As California gears up to unmask, state guidance is still needed for local schools

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As California prepares to end its universal indoor mask mandate statewide next week, Fresno County health officials are focusing on increasing vaccinations and boosters to help continue the trend of decreasing case numbers.

California's indoor mask mandate is set to end on February 15th for those who are vaccinated, two months after it was reinstated. State officials say the change comes after a 65% drop in cases since the peak of the Omicron surge.

To keep moving in a positive direction, Fresno County Health officials say continued vaccinations will be key, including for children.

"They are on the cusp of being approved for the youngest of the age groups, we feel that may happen even by the end of the month," said Dr. Rais Vohra, Interim Health officer with Fresno County.

"Just within Valley Children's, we have given more than 40,000 doses of the vaccine to all comers," said Dr. Hailey Nelson with Valley Children's Hospital.

State data shows nearly 70 percent of Fresno County residents age five and older have at least one dose of the vaccine, and we're seeing a slight downward trend in case numbers for early February.

But officials are now advising those hosting Super Bowl gatherings to do so with caution. If you're going to be around a large group indoors and don't know everyone's vaccine status, masks are still recommended.

"It's naive to think that this is going to just be an on-off switch in that we will ever have a day, especially in the near future, where we can just say 'Oh, let's just get rid of all the masks all the time.'" explained Dr. Vohra.

When it comes to masks in schools, more states are preparing to end mandates by the end of this month or March. California is expected to make an announcement soon.

"We will continue to have the same K-12 guidance until we hear otherwise from the state, just because that is really what has been relayed to us," said Dr. Vohra.

Local health officials say that beyond masking guidance for public spaces and schools, they are also hoping to revive state guidance when it comes to large sporting events or concerts.
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