SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Declining COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations along with high vaccination rates across the Bay Area have health officials considering changes around masking.
San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Santa Clara counties are working on finalizing criteria to lift the mask mandates indoors.
Changes to indoor masking across the Bay Area could be on the horizon.
Contra Costa County Health Department’s medical director told the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday:
“We are working in coordination with other counties in the region who have indoor masking orders to establish criteria for these counties to ease some of these restrictions.”
“I think it would be a good idea for them to lift indoor mask mandates. People can still mask. There’s never going to be something that tells people they shouldn’t mask,” Dr. Monica Gandhi said.
Dr. Monica Gandhi, Infectious Disease and Public Health expert with UCSF, says the Bay Area’s high vaccination rate has made it a safe time to lift the masking rules.
Currently, all Bay Area counties, except Solano, require everyone to wear masks inside at places like gyms, grocery stores, and restaurants except when people are drinking or eating.
Even after meeting the criteria to go maskless health officials are still recommending people wear them as a precaution.
“The difference between the phrase mandate and recommend is the phrase mandate really means that we’re in a public health emergency and that behavior has to change. Luckily, we are really doing great on all of our metrics,” Dr. Gandhi said.
The specific metrics have not been released yet but they are expected to be uniform across the region.
Each county may meet those metrics at different times meaning some may lift mask mandates before others.
“Hopefully, we’ll never have to go back but by putting in specific metrics you always have that option if god forbid, I don’t think that will happen, you can go back and put back the indoor mask mandate,” Dr. Gandhi said.
Health officials say in addition to updating mask guidance, they’re also working to modify the health order requiring people in restaurants and gyms to show proof of vaccination.