With the omicron surge on the decline, Governor Gavin Newsom last night announced that the state will be lifting its universal mask mandate for indoor public places, and at today’s Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting, Health Officer Dr. Ian Hoffman said the county will be following suit. 

Starting next Tuesday, the county’s indoor mask mandate will be lifted, but not for everyone, and not everywhere. People who have yet to be fully vaccinated — still more than a third of the county’s population — must still wear masks in indoor public spaces. And the mandate will remain in place in schools, hospitals, the county jail, skilled nursing facilities and other congregate settings.

Hoffman said the county is “moving away from policies that are requirements” toward recommendations — and both the California Department of Public Health and the CDC still recommend indoor masking. Also, businesses remain free to set their own mask policies.

ELSEWHERE: LoCO POLLZ: What Do You Think About Humboldt Dropping Its Mask Mandate?

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn expressed gratitude to the county’s public health staff, saying they’ve “caught a lot of crap” over the course of the pandemic. 

“I can’t say enough about how you’ve saved lives,” Bohn said, adding that he believes in the vaccine and is tired of masks like everyone else.

Roberta Luskin-Hawk, chief executive of Providence St.-Joseph, appeared via Zoom and said local hospitalizations peaked this past August and September and have dropped down to the current level of 16 COVID patients at either St. Joseph Hospital or Mad River Hospital.

The public comment period, predictably, was dominated by pandemic downplayers, including a man who said he’ll “preach noncompliance” on the continuing mandate for unvaccinated folks. A woman named Laura, from Arcata, claimed no one should be wearing masks because they’re detrimental to your health. (They’re not, when worn correctly.)

Just one caller questioned why the mandate is being lifted when there are still so many cases in the community.

Luskin-Hawk said that as an infectious disease specialist, she has followed the science closely during the pandemic and is convinced that vaccines have dramatically reduced hospitalizations and deaths.

Bohn shot back at a commenter who claimed the science presented by Hoffman has been debunked, saying, “You can debunk anything. You can debunk my existence if you look at the internet enough.”

The county’s public health staff have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday afternoon to provide more information.