Eleven Bay Area Health Officers Lift Most Indoor Mask Mandates

Eleven Bay Area Health Officers Lift Most Indoor Mask Mandates

Masks still strongly recommended; vaccines and boosters urged to further strengthen defenses

Alameda County is one of ten Northern California counties that lifted universal mask requirements for most indoor public settings for vaccinated people on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Other counties include Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma. The City of Berkeley also lifted similar indoor mask mandates.

The call to end the mandates is in alignment with the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) decision to let the statewide indoor mask requirement expire.

Unvaccinated individuals over age 2 will continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings. Businesses, venue operators and hosts may determine their own paths forward to protect staff and patrons and may choose to require all patrons to wear masks. Indoor masking is still required by the state for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in public transportation; health care settings; congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters; long term care facilities; and in K12 schools and childcare settings.

Bay Area health officers, in alignment with CDPH, continue to 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. Continuing to mask in indoor public settings, especially crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, remains the safest choice for an individual and protects those who are medically vulnerable or are not able to get vaccinated, like young children.

While relaxing indoor masking requirements is part of a population-level shift toward a “new normal” of living with the disease, the health officers recognize that essential workers and communities of color continue to be highly impacted by COVID-19 and will need additional support to limit widening health disparities. Changes to health orders and recommendations may be updated as health officers follow the science and the data to evaluate whether additional protective measures may be needed as the virus evolves and if future surges occur.

After reaching a pandemic peak of 267 new cases per 100,000 residents per day on Jan. 10, Alameda County’s COVID-19 case rate declined to 91 on Jan. 31 and has continued to drop rapidly. Meanwhile, hospitalizations have decreased 30% from their peak and never exceeded Alameda County health care facilities’ overall capacity during this latest surge because of the County’s high vaccination (82%) and booster (58%) rates. Alameda County’s universal mask mandate has been in place since August 2, 2021, when cases began climbing from the Delta variant.

“Alameda County residents’ actions — getting vaccinated and boosted, staying home when ill, and wearing masks — have helped us weather the Omicron storm. Masking will continue to be an important layer of protection as we move forward and learn to live with COVID,” said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County Health Officer. “You should feel comfortable continuing to wear your mask when you need an additional layer of safety, and confident that you are making the safest choice for yourself and your loved ones.”

CDPH continues to require masking in K-12 school settings but has indicated adjustments to the state’s policies will be shared in the coming weeks. For early education programs, such as preschool and childcare settings, CDPH continues to require masking for children older than age two. Vaccinations for children under-5 are currently undergoing federal review.

For more information, visit covid-19.acgov.org.