Indoor mask mandates return to 7 Bay Area counties

Indoor masks are again required in public settings in much of the Bay Area regardless of vaccination status

Eight Bay Area health officers on Monday issued the new health orders that took effect early Tuesday requiring face coverings indoors. Such orders had been lifted in June when COVID case numbers had declined and vaccinations became widely available. 

The indoor mask order comes from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley. Solano County said it has no plans at this present time to re-instate the indoor mask order. Napa County officials have not yet commented on the order.

The order is to keep businesses open and ensure that schools will be able to hold in-person classes in as little as a week, Marin County Health Officer Dr. Lisa Santora said at the joint noon news conference. And it's not a ban on indoor dining, the doctors said, adding that it's OK to take off your mask while you're "actively eating." 

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"We must act now to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our community. If you are eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine and have not yet done so, please do not wait any longer," said Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano. "During July, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in our county increased 400%. Four out of five of the COVID patients we see are not vaccinated, even though only one out of five Contra Costa adults are not vaccinated."

It was only on June 15 when people who had been fully vaccinated against COVID were allowed to go mask-free in indoor settings in California. 

Health officials said they are very concerned by the increased level of community transmission now found across the Bay Area, especially among unvaccinated people. In one county alone, 86% of the hospital cases were among the unvaccinated.

In part, they said, this is due to the widespread COVID-19 delta variant, which is more transmissible than previous forms of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a recent study that indicated that even fully vaccinated individuals can in some cases spread the delta variant to others, and so, the health officers said that the indoor use of face coverings provides an important added layer of protection.

The  joint announcement is stronger than the joint health announcement last month, when officers simply recommended wearing masks indoors.

"The highly contagious delta variant is a killer which requires us to take this step back to safeguard the community, " San Mateo County Board President David Canepa said.

Some cities, including San Jose, Mountain View and Brentwood, already required masks indoors.  

On Monday, the state health department said there were 33,407 newly reported confirmed cases between Friday and Sunday and the 7-day positivity rate is 6.7%.