Bay Area health officers set guidelines for lifting indoor mask mandates

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Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

With the summer surge of COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area receding, health officers for eight counties and the City of Berkeley have established new criteria for lifting indoor masking requirements.

Moving forward, the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and the City of Berkeley will independently lift their respective indoor masking requirement in public spaces when all the following occur:

  • The jurisdiction reaches the moderate (yellow) COVID-19 transmission tier, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and remains there for at least three weeks.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in the jurisdiction are low and stable, in the judgment of the health officer.
  • 80 percent of the jurisdiction’s total population is fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson (booster doses not considered)

OR

  • Eight weeks have passed since a COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by federal and state authorities for 5- to 11-year-olds (an FDA advisory committee is scheduled to consider an application from Pfizer-BioNTech to grant emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds on Oct. 26.)

Currently, just over 71 percent of Contra Costa County’s total population, including children, are fully vaccinated, and the 80 percent mark could be reached within two or three months, if the current rate of roughly 1,000 vaccinations per day continues, officials said.

Lifting of indoor masking requirements will not pertain to healthcare facilities, public transit and adult and senior care facilities, per state requirements. Also remaining in effect is the state requirement mandating that people not fully vaccinated continue to wear masks in indoor businesses and public spaces. California’s masking guidelines in K-12 schools would also not be affected by changes to local health orders.

Also, businesses, nonprofits, churches or others with public indoor spaces can impose their own masking requirements.

“The criteria were developed to assist in determining the safest time to lift the indoor masking orders, based on regional scientific and medical consensus,” according to the health officers. “The criteria also provide safety for school children, ages 5-11, who need the added protection of masks in the community to keep case rates low so they can remain in school until they can be vaccinated.”

Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa’s health officer., said it’s “no accident that transmission is slowing in Contra Costa County. Public health interventions, including the masking requirement, are working.”

“We believe that health orders, along with vaccination, outreach and education are all adding layers of protection against COVID-19 in our community – and saving lives,” he said.

Visit cchealth.org/coronavirus for local information about COVID-19 and Contra Costa County’s emergency response to the pandemic.