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California indoor mask mandate gets mixed responses

Mask mandates will go into effect tomorrow. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status will have to wear a mask indoors. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado went out into the community to see what San Diegans are saying about it, especially business owners and managers.

Starting Wednesday, regardless of vaccination status, Californians must wear a mask inside until Jan. 15, 2022.

A 47% jump in California's COVID-19 case rate and a more contagious omicron variant forced Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health secretary, to reinstate indoor mask mandates.

Most people KPBS spoke with on Tuesday said they’re okay with it and have not stopped wearing a mask indoors.

"Mask wearing is one of the layers of protection so with the new variant it didn’t surprise me," said Erica Sontheimer, who lives in San Diego. She said she saw this mandate coming.

Locals Mask Mandate
Melissa Mae / KPBS
A couple wearing masks Dec. 14, 2021, outside a Mira Mesa shopping center ahead of the statewide indoor mask mandate coming into effect on Dec. 15, 2021.

San Diegan Roger Alcaraz said the mandate felt like "an overreaction to a few cases." He's vaccinated and said he will follow the rules to protect himself and his loved ones but thinks a government mandate goes too far.

"I want to believe in the people’s own ability to care for themselves and others," he said.

Shannon Kirby, who owns and operates Signa Digital Solutions, a local print shop, said the mandate does not make sense with all of the vaccinations that happened throughout the county. And it's caused a lot of confusion at his work.

"It was the first question I was asked when I walked in this morning was, ‘Are we going to wear masks all week and for the next month?’" he said.

As a business owner, it puts him and his 29 employees, who are all fully vaccinated, in a tough spot.

"It’s just adding another layer of slowing our business down to accommodate a mask requirement, so it’s very disappointing," he said.

KPBS spoke to Sontheimer, Alcaraz and Kirby outside the Target store in Mira Mesa. The store's manager, who only wanted to be identified by his first name, Steve, said his company has been aligned with the CDC since the beginning of the pandemic.

"Target is committed to the safety of guests in our store so if that means that we can be a little bit better by putting on these masks and taking care of a few more people then yeah that’s what we’ll do," he said.

He also said understands there are different opinions but their store is focused on keeping their employees and staff safe so they can continue to serve the community, and that they will remind others to do the same.

"Fortunately in California, we’re pretty used to wearing masks already," he said, "so there’s not going to be a lot of issues that we anticipate. But we’ll be reminding guests politely that mask mandates are back in effect in accordance with state and local mandates and that’s for their protection and our protection. Target’s been a reliable source for our community from the very beginning and we’ll continue to do that."

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