Bay Area Counties Adopt Shared Guidelines for Lifting Indoor Mask Requirements

By Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
Cynthia Cai
October 9, 2021 Updated: October 12, 2021

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Public health officials in nine jurisdictions across the Bay Area have announced official criteria for lifting COVID-19 indoor mask requirements.

The officials made the announcement on Oct. 7.

The counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma, as well as the City of Berkeley, cited the decline in COVID-19 cases in the region. The counties and city agreed to lift the mask requirements in indoor public spaces when all three of the following conditions are met:

  1. The jurisdiction achieves the moderate (yellow) COVID-19 tier defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and stays there for at least three weeks.
  2. The health officer judges that COVID-19 hospitalizations are low and stable in the jurisdiction.
  3. 80 percent of the jurisdiction’s population is vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson, or eight weeks have passed since federal and state authorities have authorized a COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use for children ages 5 to 11.

When asked when residents can expect the mask mandates to be lifted, Dr. Sara Cody, director and health officer of the Santa Clara Department of Public Health, said each county might lift the mask requirement at different times depending on each county’s situation.

Currently, none of the nine jurisdictions meet all three of the criteria for lifting indoor mask requirements.

“Here in Santa Clara County, as well as most jurisdictions in the Bay Area, we will keep our requirement for indoor masking, regardless of vaccination status, until we meet these metrics that we’ve adopted across the Bay Area,” Cody said during a press conference.

NTD News asked whether counties would reinstate mask requirements at any point after lifting them. Cody responded that it would depend on individual counties, as they don’t have a shared metric for reimposing indoor mask requirements.

“But what I can say is that some of the things we will all be looking out for are the emergence of a new variant, how the vaccines do over time with any new variant emerging, and things like that,” she said.

Cody explained that lifting the local indoor mask mandate doesn’t prevent businesses, nonprofits, churches, or public indoor facilities from imposing their own mask requirements.

Indoor masking will remain in effect where required under state or federal rules, such as public transportation, hospitals, jails, and schools.

Separate from other Bay Area counties, San Francisco announced a more immediate easing of mask requirements. Certain indoor settings where groups of fully vaccinated people gather will no longer require masks beginning Oct. 15.

After a year and a half of mask mandates, Bay Area health officers said in their statement that it’s “time to plan for a transition.”

Cynthia Cai