Bay Area health officials support state’s face masking guidance

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Bay Area health officials support state’s face masking guidance
Photo credit: Uriel Mont via Pexels

By Kathy Chouteau

The Association of Bay Area Health Officials—which represents 12 Bay Area health officers and their local jurisdictions—issued a statement of support today for the California Department of Public Health’s plan to continue current masking guidance until June 15. The state has set that date as its target for aligning with the CDC’s latest masking guidance.

Contra Costa County’s health jurisdiction joins the Counties of Alameda, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma and the City of Berkeley in releasing the statement.

Local health officials emphasize that the CDC’s updated masking guidance stems from evidence that vaccines are highly effective in protecting people from infection, illness and death, as well as preventing them from spreading COVID-19 to others, according to the association. Health officials underscored the importance of increasing vaccinations to mitigate the spread of new variants, which the unvaccinated are particularly vulnerable to—a move that also protects those still ineligible for them, such as young children under 12 and people with weakened immune systems who may not receive the vaccine’s full benefit.

Currently, almost half of California’s population over age 16 is fully vaccinated and nearly 65 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine, per the association. Still, with many residents unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or not eligible to be vaccinated, “this next month is critical to ensuring more of our residents can access vaccinations and that businesses and other entities are able to prepare for implementation of the CDC’s updated masking guidance,” the association added.

Given COVID-19’s continuing global spread, health officials emphasized that the best way for residents to protect themselves is to get vaccinated. “A person is fully protected two weeks after they complete their vaccine series, which is a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines,” per the association.

“Thanks to so many in our community who have gotten vaccinated, we have come a long way and can finally start to see a return to normalcy in our area,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County. “This next month is our chance to further increase vaccination rates. Wear your mask now, so we can get to June 15 together.”

COVID-19 vaccines are available free of charge to community members age 12 and up. Appointments or walk-in clinics are available throughout Contra Costa County. Learn more about accessing local vaccinations here.