Health officers for nine Bay Area jurisdictions, including Contra Costa County, have announced that they will lift the indoor masking requirement in public spaces not subject to state or federal masking regulations when a variety of COVID-19 epidemiological metrics are met in their respective jurisdictions.
The jurisdictions, including Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley will lift the indoor masking requirement in public spaces not subject to state or federal masking rules when: 1) 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; 2) COVID-19 hospitalizations in the jurisdiction are low and stable in the judgment of the jurisdiction's health officer; and 3) 80% of the jurisdiction’s total population is fully vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine (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.
Currently, Contra Costa County is in the orange, or "substantial" category, with a COVID-19 case rate of 90.77 per 100,000 persons. The case rate per 100,000 must be between 10 and 49.99 for the area to fall into the acceptable yellow, or "moderate" category, under the latest Bay Area health officers' guidelines. Currently, 81.2% of the county's eligible population has been vaccinated, which exceeds the 80% required to meet health officers' guidelines.
Most Bay Area health departments had issued masking requirements for their respective jurisdictions on Aug 3, following a summer surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, but with regional data indicating that the surge is now receding, and with the Bay Area one of the most vaccinated regions in the country, health officers agree it is time to plan for a transition.
“Contra Costa is coming back strong, thanks to so many of our residents making healthy choices, such as getting vaccinated, or doing the courteous thing and wearing masks in places where the risk of transmission is a little higher,” said Diane Burgis, chair of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. "I'm thankful for every resident who has done their part."
Lifting a local indoor mask mandate would not prevent businesses, nonprofits, churches or others with public indoor spaces from imposing their own requirements. As the collective health officers point out, COVID-19 spreads easily through airborne droplets, and face coverings remain highly effective in preventing its spread.
Each jurisdiction will rescind its order when the qualifying criteria are met in that respective county or city. The criteria were developed to assist in determining the safest time to lift the indoor masking orders based on regional scientific and medical consensus, officials said. The criteria also protect schoolchildren, ages 5-11, who need the added protection of masks to keep case rates low in their communities so they can remain in school until they can be vaccinated.
“It is no accident that transmission is slowing in Contra Costa County," said Dr. Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa county’s health officer. "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.”
California’s state health guidance for the use of face coverings will remain in effect after local masking requirements are lifted, meaning that those who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 must continue to wear masks in businesses and indoor public spaces.
The state also requires face coverings for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in healthcare facilities, public transit and adult and senior care facilities. California’s masking guidelines in K-12 schools would also not be affected by changes to local health orders.
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.
For more information, visit cchealth.org/coronavirus.