Alameda County becomes first Bay Area county to mandate indoor masks anew 

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

TO limit the impact of increasing COVID-19 cases on hospitalizations, Alameda County health officials announced an indoor mask mandate in most public settings, which took into effect last June 3.

This order does not apply to the City of Berkeley, which is an independent Local Health Jurisdiction.

The Alameda County Health Officer said it will monitor COVID cases and hospitalizations to determine when this order can be lifted safely.

Alameda County will not require masking in K-12 school settings through the end of the 2021-22 school year, but masking is still strongly recommended. Masks will be required in all other children and youth settings, including childcare, summer school, and youth programs, as practicable.

Daily reported COVID-19 cases have exceeded the peak of last summer’s Delta wave and are now approaching levels seen during the winter 2020-21 wave, at comparable lab-reported testing levels. Reported cases are an underestimate of the total due to home testing and unidentified infections.

Hospitalizations are also rising after remaining stable during the early weeks of this wave. Daily new admissions of patients with COVID-19 rapidly increased in recent days and now exceed last summer’s peak. We expect to reach CDC’s “High” COVID-19 Community Level soon, given current trends.

“Rising COVID cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” said Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss. “We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end. Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities.”

While COVID-19 vaccination, boosters, prior infection and available medications provide protection against severe illness, the virus that causes COVID is circulating at very high levels in Alameda County. Even with strong protections, such high numbers of infections put more people at risk and in the hospital.

Masking provides an added layer of protection against infection from a virus that spreads through the air. Wearing a high-quality mask protects both the wearer and those around them, and having more people masked will help slow the spread of COVID-19. Children under age 2 should not mask.

“We thank Alameda County residents, employers, and businesses for continuing to rise to the challenge in response to this pandemic,” said Colleen Chawla, Director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency (AC HCSA). “Unfortunately, COVID has not gone away and once again, we must take measures to protect ourselves, friends and community members, and employees and patrons from this very infectious virus.”

Throughout the pandemic, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/a/x, and Pacific Islander residents have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19. These same communities have historically experienced health disparities and the pandemic revealed and exacerbated those issues. Alameda County is committed to mitigating COVID-19 disparities where possible.

“We are seeing the same pattern of disproportionate impact on hard hit communities play out again with rising cases,” said Kimi Watkins-Tartt, Director of AC HCSA’s Public Health Department. “Many Black and Brown residents are frontline workers who can’t work from home and are in workplaces where they frequently interact with the public. A masking order will limit the spread of COVID in these vulnerable communities.”

In addition to masking, residents are reminded to continue taking other steps to limit spreading COVID-19: stay home if sick or positive; test if symptomatic or exposed; and keep gatherings small and outdoors or increase ventilation if gathering indoors.

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