BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Fish those masks you cast aside months ago out of the drawer, because starting Wednesday all Californians will be required to wear one in all public settings across the state.

State government, citing a sharp increase in COVID-19 infection rates since Thanksgiving, says mask-wearing is again mandatory. It’s restoring the mandate it lifted in June.

The state is also upping existing testing requirements by ordering unvaccinated people attending indoor events of 1,000 people or more to have a negative test within one or two days, depending on the type of test. The state also is recommending travelers who visit or return to California to get tested within five days of their arrival.

How that goes over in Kern County, where masks are less frequently visible than in other parts of the state and vaccination rates have consistently been among California’s  lowest, remains to be seen.

Brynn Carrigan, director of Kern County Department of Public Health, says Kern County will abide by the state directive. But how it’s enforced is another matter.

“This mandate came as a surprise to us,” Carrigan said. “We found out about this yesterday like everybody else yesterday about this mandate. In Kern County specifically we’re actually seeing our cases decrease. Statewide they’re seeing an increase in cases. 

“I think the language that already existed that recommended that individuals wear a mask when they’re in an indoor setting was sufficient because you’re allowing people to choose what layers of protection they use. So this is really just an added layer, a mandate with no enforcement behind it. But I think it’s important to know that masking does add a layer of protection.”

bakersfield residents out and about Tuesday were nearly unanimous in their feelings about the mask requirement. Most support masks but not mandates.

“In large gatherings I think masks are a good idea,” said John Calanchini, a musician on his way to lunch. “Whenever I’m in a large gathering I wear a mask. If I go out around a few people, I don’t wear a mask. But for a government to enforce it, I entirely disagree with that.”

“I don’t mind wearing a mask because I make other people feel comfortable,” said Mary Polanco, a nurse. “But I honestly don’t think you should mandate anything, I think, because you cause a lot of animosity and a lot of division.”

“Free choice is a big thing, I think, in life,” said Ben Crenshaw, walking into Starbucks. “And I don’t even think a mask is that effective anyways.”

The per capita rate of new coronavirus cases in California has jumped 47 percent in the past two weeks and state officials are afraid of a repeat of last winter, when California averaged more than 100 cases per 100,000 people during a huge winter surge of the virus that claimed nearly 20,000 people over an eight-week period.

 State officials say that, with no plans on the table to reimpose stay at home orders this winter, hospitals will face challenges they did not face last year.

As for enforcement, that’s unclear. Last year Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said he had no inclination to be the mask police and county government has largely left mask enforcement at business up to state agencies. We have been given no indication from the state or the county that this mandate – due to run until Jan. 15, will be any different.