ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KRON) — On Wednesday, Alameda and Marin counties announced plans to align with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines to require wearing face coverings in all indoor public places to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The new order, for both counties, will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, December 30.

Previous local face covering exemptions carved out for indoor spaces with consistent cohorts of fully vaccinated people will no longer apply, the counties announced Wednesday.

For Marin County, the first case of the Omicron variant was identified on Dec. 17.

Since then, the county is reporting an average daily COVID-19 case count have tripled, which has been fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Now, all people in Marin County, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear a mask in all indoor public settings, in accordance with the state-wide mandate.

This includes gyms, fitness centers, office settings, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings, college classes, and similar settings.

Despite rising case counts, hospitalization rates for COVID-19 infections have remained stable across the Marin.

That is attributed to Marin County’s high vaccination rate; 92.1% of Marin’s population ages five and over has completed a COVID-19 vaccine series.

Still, health officials express concern that hospitalization rates could increase significantly in the coming days if case counts continue to rise at current rates. 

CDPH’s statewide indoor mask mandate went into effect December 15.

At that time, Marin and other local counties were given an option to adopt a pre-existing mask order in lieu of the state’s order.

Marin and five other jurisdictions – including the counties of Sonoma, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Alameda, and the city of Berkeley – adopted local orders that allowed some exemptions not found in the state’s policy.

The recension of the local order means Marin now falls under CDPH’s mask order, which will remain in effect through at least January 15, 2022, the county said.

On December 28, Contra Costa County made a similar announcement, issuing a new health order that removed limited exemptions to indoor mask use.

“When we see numbers like this, it’s time to respond,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer.

“The mask exemption for certain settings was a pre-Omicron policy. This variant behaves differently, and the risk of infection in a room full of vaccinated people who are unmasked is much higher now.” 

In Alameda County, the change does not impact face masking requirements for school and youth settings.

The county is reporting a local daily case rate of 18.7 per 100,00 residents and rising — Alameda County’s transmission is now categorized as “High” on the CDC’s COVID-19 data tracker.

“We have learned that Omicron can spread even among the vaccinated and those who had prior COVID infection,” said Dr. Nicholas Moss, Alameda County Health Officer.

“Masks work and are a critical layer of safety for everyone this winter.”

According to health officials, vaccination and booster doses together with masking will protect residents and keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with people who are severely ill due to COVID.

“Omicron may be more transmissible, but we have the tools to prevent infection,” said Dr. Moss.

“Because even a mild infection in a vaccinated person may be passed on to someone who could become hospitalized, we must take every precaution this winter.