Health officers announce criteria to ease face covering requirements

‘A relaxation of masking orders is warranted’

Health officials across nine Bay Area jurisdictions announced their criteria to eventually lift the region’s requirement to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Health officers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley initially issued the mandate Aug. 3 amid a wave of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations due to the highly contagious delta variant.

Last week, the officers argued that the wave is now receding, and a plan to transition away from the mandate in the coming weeks is necessary.

Each county as well as Berkeley will lift the mandate respectively when it has reached the moderate or yellow tier of COVID-19 transmission as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for at least three weeks; when its COVID-19 hospitalizations are “low and stable,” as determined by local health officials; and when 80% of each jurisdiction’s total population is fully vaccinated; or eight weeks have passed since federal authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

As of Oct. 7, none of the eight counties are in the moderate transmission tier.

In addition, none have reached 80% vaccination among full populations, although Marin, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties have crested 70%.

“Indoor masking has helped to lower case counts, hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths, so we don’t want to remove this important layer of COVID prevention too hastily,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement. “These regional metrics will help keep our community safe, and ensure that our case rates are low and stable, our hospitals are in good shape and vaccination rates are robust.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said The City will forge ahead this week in easing indoor mask requirements for some settings while also easing the masking order more broadly under criteria the health officials jointly announced.

Beginning Oct. 15, San Francisco will allow people to be in indoor settings such as offices, gyms and college classes without a face covering if there are fewer than 100 people present and if everyone can verify they are fully vaccinated.

“San Francisco’s health orders and shared mitigation efforts have been successful in keeping us safer as a community, and a relaxation of masking orders is warranted,” San Francisco Department of Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said. “We’ll continue to follow the data and science where it leads us.”

Some indoor masking requirements will remain in place under state and federal guidance even after the regional masking orders are fully lifted, including in K-12 schools, health care settings and on public transit.

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