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Bay Area health officers issue guidelines for easing mask requirements

Eight Bay Area counties Thursday released criteria that would ease indoor masking requirements in public places.

Public health officers from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties, and the city of Berkeley, collectively outlined how they will go about lifting mask requirements for indoor public spaces not subject to state or federal laws.

The criteria includes:

  • A jurisdiction reaches the moderate (yellow) Covid-19 transmission tier defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The county or city must remain in the moderate tier for at least three weeks.
  • Covid-19 hospitalizations are low and stable. The public health officer in each jurisdiction will be responsible for making that determination.
  • Full vaccination rate has reached 80 percent of the jurisdiction’s total population, or eight weeks have passed since a vaccine has been authorized by federal and state officials for emergency use in 5- to 11-year-olds.

As of Thursday, the CDC reports that Alameda, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties are experiencing substantial transmission, putting them in the state’s orange tier.

Contra Costa and Napa counties are still seeing high levels of transmission, which lands them in the CDC’s red tier. Solano County, which did not participate in the joint announcement, is also recording high levels of transmission.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention U.S. map reflecting Covid-19 transmission levels by county with data through Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Courtesy of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

San Francisco officials announced that they will begin to easing indoor mask mandates in settings where employers or hosts can control settings and can verify that each person is fully vaccinated, starting Oct. 15.

Those indoor settings include offices, gyms and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings and indoor college classes or other gatherings not exceeding 100 people. Indoor masking will still be required inside restaurants and bars, with the exception of when customers are eating or drinking.

Mayor London Breed said in a statement:

“I’m excited that we’re once again at a place where we can begin easing the mask requirements, which is the direct result of the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our cases have fallen, and our residents have done their part to keep themselves and those around them safe.”

Bay Area counties saw a summer surge of Covid-19 cases due to the outbreak of the delta variant. San Francisco, for example, saw a seven-day average of new cases per day peak at 309 on Aug. 2. That number has since dropped to just 79 as of Sept. 29, but The City is still considered to have substantial transmission by CDC definition.

Public health officers said they believe they can lift some indoor mask requirements due to the Bay Area’s high vaccination rate.

Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County health officer said in a statement:

“While we expect COVID-19 and flu to circulate this winter, with more people well-protected from severe illness by vaccination we will be able to loosen mask requirements safely.”

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