Sonoma County

Sonoma County Could Soon Loosen Mask Requirements for Small, Fully Vaccinated Indoor Settings

The changes would apply to settings like offices, gyms and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings and college classes

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Sonoma County could soon join a handful of other Bay Area counties in allowing fully vaccinated residents to forego a mask in some settings, the county's public health officer said Tuesday.

Dr. Sundari Mase told the county's Board of Supervisors that the county is considering tweaking its indoor mask requirements for small settings in which the host or organizer can verify all attendees' full vaccination status.

The changes to the county's current mask order -- which applies to all public indoor spaces -- would apply to settings like offices, gyms and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings and college classes.

"What this will do, basically, is add an exemption to the face covering requirements in certain indoor settings that have stable groups of people, stable cohorts of fully vaccinated individuals," Mase said.

San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa counties have already enacted or announce plans to implement similar changes to their indoor masking orders, citing the safety of fully vaccinated settings and the region's declining COVID-19 case and hospitalization data.

The county would still require the use of masks and other face coverings, regardless of vaccination status, in larger indoor settings like grocery stores and bars.

In addition, unvaccinated residents would still be required to wear a mask indoors in any public space.

Sonoma County jointly announced eight other Bay Area jurisdictions earlier this month in announcing criteria to fully lift indoor requirements, which include 80 percent of a county's total population being fully vaccinated and reaching the moderate or yellow tier of COVID-19 transmission as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Tuesday, 68.6 percent of the county's entire population has been fully vaccinated.

According to county epidemiologist Kate Peck, roughly 56,000 more county residents will need to get vaccinated to reach 80 percent. Once children ages 5-11 become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, the county's vaccine-eligible population will increase by 37,185, Peck said.

In any case, Peck and other Bay Area health officials have argued that fully lifting the region's mask requirements is unlikely prior to New Year's.

Meanwhile, nearly 16,000 county residents age 18 and older have received a booster vaccine dose as of Sunday, according to county officials, equal to roughly one quarter of those who are eligible for a third dose.

Booster vaccine doses are available and recommended for adults age 65 and up and younger adults with underlying health conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

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