Bay Area health officials on Thursday are expected to announce plans for an eventual end to the region’s indoor masking mandate.
Health officials are finalizing criteria in which counties would be required to meet in order to lift the restrictions. Those criteria are likely to include case rates, vaccination rates and hospitalizations, according to officials.
“We have been discussing this among the health officers in the region, and our intention and our plan is to develop a set of metrics we all share that are common across the region as to when to lift indoor masking,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said during a county supervisor meeting on Tuesday. “And we’re getting very close and are hoping to have an announcement with details by the end of this week.”
Preston Merchant, the spokesperson for San Mateo County Health, confirmed that the announcement would be held on Thursday.
Depending on when individual counties reach the established thresholds, certain counties could shed their indoor masking mandates sooner than others. And even if a county lifts its mask mandate, Ori Tzvieli, the chief medical officer of Contra Costa County, said that he would still recommend that people mask up indoors.
Invoking a common comparison between safety features in vehicles and public health protection measures, Tzvieli said Tuesday that masks are like airbags — even those who are vaccinated might still want them around.
The anticipated announcement comes just about a week after Santa Cruz County rescinded its mask mandate.
As of Tuesday, every Bay Area county except for Solano requires everyone — regardless of vaccination status — to wear masks in all indoor settings. Health officers reinstated indoor mask mandates in early August to clamp down on rising infections driven by the highly contagious COVID-19 delta variant.
Even when Bay Area counties do decide to lift their mandates, people will still be required to wear masks inside schools and hospitals — a directive that has been established at the state level.
Counties in the Bay Area have some of the highest vaccination rates in the nation. In the six core Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, San Francisco and San Mateo — more than 80% of eligible residents ages 12 or older are fully vaccinated. And, after the surge of delta this summer, case rates and hospitalizations are on the decline.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.