Omicron Surge Forces Some Bay Area Counties to Revise Indoor Mask Rules

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COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant continue to increase across the country and in the Bay Area, prompting local health officials to revisit indoor mask policies and guidelines.

Changes went into effect in parts like Contra Costa County Wednesday, andPaige Salvato, Client Coordinator at Health Bay Med Spa say "its better to be safe than sorry."

Salvato said even when the county eased mask restrictions two weeks ago, masks stayed on at Health Bay Med Spa and proof of vaccination was required at the business.

Omicron's biggest target appears to be the unvaccinated, but health officials are also seeing a higher number of breakthrough cases and believe bringing masks back everywhere is just one more way to slow the spread.

"The new revised masking order requires all indoor gatherings, even among fully-vaccinated people, under a 100, to wear masks," said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia.

In California, Omicron is being blamed for about 70% of current cases across the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom said recently that California is better positioned to handle the surge than it was a year ago, when serious cases strained hospitals and morgues to the breaking point, and is less affected so far than many other states.

COVID-19 cases of the Omicron variant continue to increase across the country and in the Bay Area, prompting local health officials to revisit indoor mask policies and guidelines. Bob Redell reports.

Here's a look at Bay Area counties announcing changes to mask rules. The counties previously scaled back rules prior to the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Note Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have an "all indoor mask rule" in place.

Alameda County

Alameda County and the city of Berkeley have rescinded their previous face mask guidelines allowing fully vaccinated people to be unmasked.

Beginning Dec. 30, all people regardless of vaccination status must mask in all indoor public spaces.

“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.”

Contra Costa County

Everyone in the Contra Costa County starting Wednesday will have to wear a mask at all indoor businesses, regardless of vaccination status.

For the past several weeks, vaccinated people at many of the county's gyms, churches and officers were allowed to leave their masks off, but the county said the new variant has made that too risky.

"The omicron variant is very contagious, and we now know that anyone, regardless of vaccination status, can spread this variant to other people," said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Contra Costa County's deputy health officer. "We anticipate the case rate and hospitalization numbers to increase over the coming weeks. To reduce spread, cases and hospitalizations, we all need to wear masks anytime we are in an indoor public setting."

Marin County

Marin County Public Health officials announced Wednesday all residents will be required to wear masks in all indoor public spaces.

“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.” 

The new order will go in effect Dec. 30

San Francisco County

San Francisco Mayor London Breed and health director Dr. Grant Colfax announced the county is joining other Bay Area counties in updating its mask rules due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.

All people regardless of vaccination status must wear a mask in all public indoor settings.

Other changes include the requirement for all health care workers and workers in at-risk settings to get their COVID-19 booster shot and the requirement for all attendees and staff at major events to be up to date with all vaccinations.

The changes will go in effect Dec. 30, officials said in a statement.

Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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