Health officers in seven Bay Area counties today changed last week’s indoor mask recommendation into an order requiring everyone to again wear masks in all indoor settings.
In an effort to slow sharply rising infection rates in the region, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody joined health officers in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley at a noon briefing about the new local health orders and the indoor use of face coverings.
“Universal indoor use of face coverings is the least disruptive and most immediately impactful additional measure to take, “ Cody wrote in today’s order.
The county order, to go into effect at 12:01 am Tuesday, Aug. 3, “is made in light of the recent significant increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Santa Clara County due primarily to the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19,” wrote Cody.
“Emerging evidence indicates that the Delta variant is more transmissible than prior variants of the virus, may cause more severe illness, and that even fully vaccinated individuals can spread the virus to others,” according to the health officer. “The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) now both recommend that all persons—regardless of vaccination status—wear face coverings indoors. Vaccination remains the best and most effective tool in preventing COVID-19 and its harms.”
She added that “evidence shows that even against the Delta variant, fully vaccinated individuals have substantial protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death.”
Seeking to continue to the proportion of the population vaccinated is the best measure available, Cody said in her order.
Regardless of vaccination status, all persons must wear face coverings at all times when indoors except:
- In their own residence or working in a closed room or office alone or with members of their household
- When they are actively performing an activity that cannot be done while wearing a face covering (e.g., actively eating or drinking, swimming or showering in a fitness facility, or obtaining a medical or cosmetic service requiring removal of a face covering); or,
- As specifically exempted from use of face coverings under the guidance of CDPH at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx (e.g., to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or where a face covering poses a safety risk).
She added a warning about dining in restaurants, which had been reopened. “All persons are strongly discouraged from engaging in any activities that require removal of face coverings indoors (e.g., indoor dining), and instead encouraged to choose safer alternatives (e.g., outdoor dining). Even outdoors, individuals are recommended to use face coverings if they are in crowded areas.”
Businesses, schools and nonprofits as well as governmental entities are required to enforce this face covering requirement for all employees, customers or members of the public entering their facilities, regardless of vaccination status.
All businesses, schools and nonprofits as well as governmental entities must post clearly visible and easy-to-read signage at all entry points for indoor settings to communicate the face covering requirements to all persons entering the facility.
County officials said that because getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to protect the vaccinated person from infection, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19, as well as to prevent harm to others by reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19, “all eligible persons are strongly urged to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.”
She also recommended that all businesses and governmental entities implement mandatory vaccination requirements for all personnel, subject only to the limited exemptions required by law, and:
- Move operations and activities outdoors where possible, where there is significantly less risk of COVID-19 transmission. Where this is not possible, ventilation should be maximized.
- Prohibit all personnel who are not fully vaccinated from engaging in any work-related travel to places with elevated rates of COVID-19, with widespread circulation of variants of concern, or where community vaccination rates are below the average in the Bay Area region.
- Require all personnel not fully vaccinated to obtain frequent testing for COVID-19 consistent with current local, state, and federal recommendations. Any person, vaccinated or unvaccinated, who has any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 should be tested immediately.
Cody asked the sheriff, all chiefs of police in the county, and all enforcement officers to work to ensure compliance with and enforce this Order. “The violation of any provision of this order constitutes an imminent threat and menace to public health, constitutes a public nuisance, and is punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both,” she wrote.
California had adopted the Center for Disease Control’s revised May guidance on June 15 when the state retired most of its pandemic restrictions. The state has continued to require those who haven’t been vaccinated to wear masks indoors in public places.