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Ten Bay Area Counties Will Follow State in Rolling Back Indoor Mask Mandate Feb 16th

Contra Costa County officials announced on Wednesday morning via a press release that they would join the State of California in officially rolling back indoor mask mandates for fully-vaccinated people over the age of 2 beginning on February 16th, 2022. Previously, the State of California had approved a state-wide rollback of the mandate, but it was not yet clear how individual counties would proceed.

The rollback will apply more broadly than just in Contra Consta County, too. In the press release, county officials stated that “In alignment with the State, the Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and the City of Berkeley will lift universal mask requirements for most indoor public settings beginning Wednesday, February 16.”

The lifting of the indoor mask mandates means that beginning on February 16th, the Bay Area’s counties will not require vaccinated people over the age of 2 to wear masks indoors. Those under the age of 2 were prohibited from wearing masks previously, so guidance for this age group remains unchanged.

Importantly, the update does not apply to the unvaccinated. As county officials state in their announcement, “Unvaccinated individuals over age 2 will continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings.”

Additionally, although the county is rolling back its mandate, individual businesses and institutions can still choose to implement masking policies of their own. According to county officials, “Businesses, venue operators and hosts may determine their own paths forward to protect staff and patrons and may choose to require all patrons to wear masks.”

In particular, the state says that “Indoor masking is still required by the State for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in public transportation; health care settings; congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters; long term care facilities; and in K-12 schools and childcare settings.”

Despite the rollback, county officials still encourage people to wear masks indoors whenever possible. Officials called for “layered prevention strategies, such as wearing well-fitted masks (N95 or double layer cloth over surgical are best); staying home and testing when symptomatic; testing before gatherings; and improving indoor ventilation in situations where these strategies can add protection for themselves and others.”

The change was made, officials say, because of falling case rates of Covid-19, despite the highly contagious Omicron variant. County officials acknowledged that the State is moving towards “a ‘new normal’ of living with the disease” and that this move is a step in that direction.

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Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times.

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