Coronavirus: Berkeley, 7 Bay Area counties reinstate indoor mask mandates amid COVID-19 surge

SAN FRANCISCO — Eight health officers in California’s Bay Area issued health orders Monday requiring masks be worn indoors in public places, regardless of a person’s vaccination status.

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The indoor mask order, set to take effect just after midnight Tuesday, affects Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley, KTVU reported.

Marin County Health Officer Dr. Lisa Santora said during a joint news conference that the mandate is intended to keep businesses open and to ensure that schools can return to in-person instruction within a week. She also noted that it’s perfectly acceptable to take off a mask while “actively eating,” emphasizing that the measure is not a ban on indoor dining, the TV station reported.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the order comes several weeks after Los Angeles County became one of the first in the nation to reinstate an indoor mask mandate and on the same day that Kaiser Permanente announced it will make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all employees and physicians. The Oakland-based health care behemoth said nearly a quarter of its 240,000 employees remain unvaccinated, the Times reported.

“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,” Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano said during the news conference. “During July, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in our county increased 400%. Four out of five of the COVID-19 patients we see are not vaccinated, even though only one out of five Contra Costa adults are not vaccinated.”

According to KTVU, the health officers argued that reinstating the use of indoor masks provides an important added layer of protection, especially in light of a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study indicating that even fully vaccinated individuals can, in some instances, spread the dominant and highly transmissible delta variant.

“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 during the news conference.

According to the California Department of Public Health, the state confirmed 33,407 new COVID-19 cases between Friday and Sunday.

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