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Bay Area health officers set criteria for lifting indoor mask requirements

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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 three of 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:

  • When 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.)

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.”

Scott Morrow, MD, San Mateo County health officer said face coverings along with vaccinations “have been key to our success in the Bay Area in reducing transmission and protecting public health.”

“As we look toward lifting the mandate, it’s vital for everyone who has not gotten vaccinated to consider getting vaccinated right away,” he said.

Visit smchealth.org/coronavirus for local information about COVID-19, including vaccination clinics, and smcgov.org for San Mateo County’s response to the pandemic.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels