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All Californians are recommended to wear masks indoors — regardless of vaccination status — as case rates across the state and Orange County have been steadily increasing since the statewide reopening last month. 

The state Department of Public Health adjusted its masking guidelines Wednesday to align with the CDC’s updated guidelines. 

“The Delta variant has caused a sharp increase in hospitalizations and case rates across the state. We are recommending masking in indoor public places to slow the spread while we continue efforts to get more Californians vaccinated,” Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, health department director and state public health officer, said in a Wednesday news release.

Orange County’s trends have been mirroring increases across the Golden State. 

“Everyone is surging. There’s no good place right now anywhere. In Orange County and California — it’s just who’s ahead,” said Vladimir Minin, a UC Irvine biostatistician who’s been tracking state and local transmission trends since the pandemic began. 

In a Tuesday phone interview, Minin said the Delta variant is largely fueling the increases, based on state and local data he evaluated. 

UCI epidemiologist and public health expert, Andrew Noymer, said he’s worried not enough people are getting vaccinated as the Delta variant rages through the state.

“The issue is with the Delta Variant plus the fact that you can’t get people to vaccinate for love or money — means that we’ve really hit a glass ceiling when it comes to vaccination,” Noymer said in a phone interview last week. 

He added,  “It’s not going to turn around on a dime unless we all get vaccinated.” 

As of Wednesday, Orange County is at a 6.9% positivity rate, according to state data.

Before the June 15 statewide reopening, the rate hovered around 1%. 

There were also 215 people hospitalized throughout OC, including 56 in intensive care units., according to state data.

While experts like Noymer say the Delta variant doesn’t make you more sick, they have been finding that it is far more contagious than earlier strains.

But, Noymer said the vaccine is still very effective against the strain.

The state health department said most of California is seeing high transmission rates.

“Under the CDC’s new guidance, more than 90% of California’s population is currently in areas designated as substantial or high transmission,” reads Wednesday’s news release.

The move comes on the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement that all 248,000 state workers will either have to show proof they’re vaccinated or submit to weekly testing in order to keep working. 

The same rule applies for the more than 2 million health care workers in the state. 

During a Monday news conference, Newsom criticized the misinformation surrounding the vaccine and urged people to get vaccinated. 

“It’s a choice to live with this virus. And with all due respect you don’t have a choice to go out and drink and drive and put everyone else’s lives at risk.” 

Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC staff reporter. You can reach him at scustodio@voiceofoc.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpencerCustodio

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