After an increase in COVID-19 transmission in the San Francisco Bay area, local health officials announced Monday that seven counties in the region would revert to a mask mandate for indoor public settings that takes effect for everyone after midnight, regardless of vaccination status.
“The order, announced at a joint news conference, goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday,” and “affects more than 7 million residents,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The outlet reported, “Health officers for seven of the nine counties in the region – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma –and the city of Berkeley, which has its own health department, brought back the restriction.”
“Indoor masking is a temporary measure that will help us deal with the Delta variant, which is causing a sharp increase in cases, and we know increases in hospitalizations and deaths will follow,” said Dr. Naveena Bobba, San Francisco Acting Health Officer. “When we all wear face coverings indoors, we are protecting our fellow residents and helping our healthcare workers.”
Businesses are required to comply with the updated mandates.
The move comes more than two weeks after officials in Los Angeles County, the most populous county both in California and the nation, similarly modified its health order. Indoor mask requirements are also in effect in Yolo and Sacramento Counties.
The new health orders in the Bay Area “vary slightly by county,” the Chronicle reported, pointing out the Santa Clara County update requires masks at multi-household indoor gatherings in private homes.
According to The Associated Press, the Bay Area “collectively leads the state in vaccination rates, with over 60% of residents fully vaccinated.” Health officials say fully vaccinated people are still spreading the virus, but the vast majority of severe coronavirus cases requiring hospitalization are among the unvaccinated.
More details from the Chronicle:
The Bay Area has been averaging more than 1,400 cases a day over the past several days, surpassing the peak of last year’s summer surge in mid-August.
Regional hospitalizations have not yet reached last summer’s peak but are not far off — 815 people were in the hospital with COVID on July 28 last year, compared with 713 on Sunday. COVID deaths in the Bay Area, however, at about five a day, are well below last summer’s peak of 20 a day.
Last year, no vaccines were available, and the Bay Area was under multiple public health restrictions, including a regional mask mandate, bans on large gatherings, and reduced capacity in most indoor settings. This year, vaccines are widespread and almost all public health measures had been lifted before Monday’s mask announcement.
“It is unfortunate we have to do this at this point in the pandemic,” Dr. George Han, deputy health officer for Santa Clara County, said at the briefing on Monday. “But the virus has changed.”