As the number of COVID-19 cases reaches a new high, the California Department of Public Health has issued guidance that requires nearly everybody to wear face coverings while in public settings where the risk of contracting the coronavirus is high.

In a statement released Thursday, the state cites growing evidence that people with few or no symptoms of COVID-19 can still spread the coronavirus, and use of face coverings can reduce that spread.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the use of masks will be key to reopening businesses around the state.

“California’s strategy to restart the economy and get people back to work will only be successful if people act safely and follow health recommendations. That means wearing a face covering, washing your hands and practicing physical distancing,” Newsom said.

The guidance applies statewide to all residents whenever people go outside of their homes, specifically when people must stand in line, visit a health care facility, or ride public transit or any type of rideshare service. It also applies to people in their workplaces, especially when a job requires people to interact with the public, work in spaces frequented by the public, or prepare or package food for others.

Exemptions include people engaged in outdoor work or recreation, people who are eating or drinking in a restaurant, and people with medical or mental health conditions that prevent them from wearing a face covering. Those exemptions come with the expectation that people will continue to maintain physical distancing.

The guidance comes after a week when the state and San Joaquin County had relaxed some COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. Last week the state allowed reopening of schools, day camps, casinos and card rooms, campgrounds and hotels for tourists. The state also authorized reopening of other venues, but with direction to counties that they should still keep those venues closed if they’re still seeing high rates of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

In San Joaquin County bars, wineries, movie theaters and family entertainment centers, gyms, spectator sports, zoos and museums, and film and television production were still not allowed to open as of Friday.

The county relaxed that order on Wednesday to allow gyms, fitness centers, and dance and gymnastics studios to reopen, as long as they followed protocols to curtail the risk of the coronavirus spreading.

On Thursday, the county added wineries and personal care services — such as tattoo parlors and skin care, massage, and nail salons — which can open Friday.

California reached a new peak for new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, with 4,084 new cases reported in one day, bringing the total number of positive cases since March 19 to 161,099. That includes 5,290 deaths, with 82 deaths reported on Wednesday.

San Joaquin County has seen a sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks. The 142 new cases reported on Sunday were the highest single-day total since the first cases were confirmed March 16. The county has seen 47 deaths from COVID-19, including four reported on Tuesday, the most deaths in a single day among county residents since the first death was reported March 19. 

Hospitalizations have also increased in the past two weeks. The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 had peaked at 46 on April 5 and had been reduced to seven as of May 19, but it has been on the rise since then. The county reached a new high of 50 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday.

Contact the Tracy Press at tpnews@tracypress.com or 835-3030.

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