coronavirus pandemic

Bay Area Counties Weigh in on Mask Mandates

NBC Universal, Inc.

It's a question many are now asking daily.

As COVID-19 rates continue to drop locally, how much longer will counties hold onto their indoor mask mandates?

Many people visiting indoor businesses in Santa Cruz County are not wearing masks anymore and those who are doing so voluntarily.

On Wednesday, Dr. Gail Newel, the Santa Cruz County public health officer said she set up her masking order to automatically rescind when the transmission rate dropped to a “moderate” level versus “high” or “substantial.”

“I wanted our community to feel confident in their vaccine that their vaccine offers a layer of protection,” she said.

But Newel added that while many Bay Area counties have a similar moderate ranking and similarly high vaccination rates, she doesn’t want to suggest what other public health offices should do.

“We are much smaller than the other Bay Area counties, we have less international traffic moving through here for both business purposes and tourism,” she said.

Bay Area Counties’ attitudes are mixed when it comes to lifting the indoor mask mandates.

For example, Officials in Marin County expect it will drop mask mandates eventually, while San Mateo, Contra Costa and Solano counties are not even considering it at this time.

Health officials at Santa Clara County, the Bay’s largest county said the high rate of booster shots would go a long way toward determining when they will ease mask requirements there.

“I think it’s one measure and we’re looking at all of those,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, vaccine director with the Santa Clara County Public Health Department. “I mean, having a high level of vaccinations and we have one of the highest in the country. Also, we want to make sure our case numbers are pretty low.. and the hospitalization numbers are low. So, we’re looking at all of that. We don’t want to do anything prematurely. We want to keep everybody safe.”

There are mixed reactions but many people told NBC Bay Area’s Robert Handa Thursday that’s a good approach.

“Yes, yes I know the vaccinations and all that. But we still need to feel safe until a higher percentage is cured,” said David Brown-Lundy of San Jose.

Santa Cruz County may no longer have a mask mandate.

But county health officials are still urging people to follow restrictions voluntarily.

Otherwise they said if numbers go back up, so will the masks.

Contact Us