Contra Costa County is among 10 Bay Area counties that will lift the mandate requiring vaccinated individuals to wear masks inside businesses and other indoor public settings such as offices and museums starting Feb. 16.
However, indoor masking will still be required regardless of vaccination status at K-12 schools, on public transportation, in healthcare settings and longterm care facilities, and in congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, officials said.
Unvaccinated individuals over age 2 will continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings.
The change aligns with new state policy and will also take effect in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties on Feb. 16. Last week, Contra Costa County additionally lifted vaccination proof requirements for certain businesses such as restaurants and gyms.
Bay Area health officers note that the state is expected to announce adjustments to requirements on masking in K-12 settings “in the coming weeks.” They also say businesses and other venue operators can require all patrons to wear masks if they’d like. In a joint statement, the health officers added they “strongly recommend masks be used as an effective tool to prevent the spread of the virus especially when case rates are high, or when additional personal protection is needed.”
Public health officials attribute relaxation of the masking requirements to “a population-level shift toward a ‘new normal’ of living with the disease.'”
Contra Costa County’s COVID case rates have rapidly declined since the peak of the omicron surge. After reaching a high of 2,835 new cases per day on Jan. 9, case rates have declined to a 7-day average of 958 on Feb. 1 and continue to drop, officials siad.
“Meanwhile, hospitalizations, a lagging indicator of disease, have begun to drop and never exceeded local capacity during this latest surge because of the county’s overall high rates of vaccinations (80%) and boosters (49% of those eligible),” County officials said. “Contra Costa’s universal mask mandate has been in place since Aug. 2 when cases began climbing from the Delta variant.”