California’s health official has decided to maintain the indoor mask mandate till Feb. 15 as the state is witnessing a surge in COVID-19 patients, partly due to the Omicron variant.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced the extension on Wednesday, Jan. 5. Fox News reported that he also urged people to get the COVID-19 vaccine and use better-fitting masks.

The original mask mandate, which took effect on Dec. 15 and expires on Jan. 15, requires Californian people to wear masks in all indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status.

“Omicron is here, and it’s here now,” Ghaly said, adding that the agency will update the situation to decide if they could lift the extension.

“At that time, we will again re-evaluate the condition across California, our communities and our health-care delivery settings to make sure that we are taking the latest information into account.” Then, we need “to determine if there would be another extension, or if we’re prepared to lift that requirement across the state,” Ghaly said.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services said more than 8,000 people in the state are hospitalized due to COVID-19.

To combat the Omicron variant, Ghaly called on people to get vaccinated, including booster shots, and to wear better-fitting masks.

Some days earlier, Wall Street Journal reported that cloth masks might not be effective enough to protect people from the spread of the Omicron variant.

Ghaly said that the mandate would not impact Super Bowl LVI, which will be held in SoFi Stadium in the Los Angeles suburb of Inglewood on Feb. 13.

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