What Bay Area Counties Need to Do to Lift COVID-19 Mask Mandates

Nine regional jurisdictions, including Berkeley, reach consensus on criteria for ditching masks

NBC Universal, Inc.

What to Know

  • Health officers in nine Bay Area jurisdictions agree on criteria that would allow mask mandates to end.
  • Lifting the mandate doesn't prevent businesses from keeping their own masking rules in place.
  • New guidelines do not supersede masking orders for health care facilities, public transit and schools.

Health officers for nine Bay Area jurisdictions Thursday reached a consensus on criteria to lift mask mandates on most indoor public spaces and allow organizations to set those requirements independently, according to a joint news release.

The counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and the city of Berkeley will lift the indoor masking requirements in public spaces not subject to state and federal COVID-19 rules when all the following occur:

  • The jurisdiction reaches the moderate (yellow) COVID-19 transmission tier, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and remains there for at least three weeks
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in the jurisdiction are low and stable, in the judgment of the health officer
  • 80% of the jurisdiction’s population is fully vaccinated (booster doses not considered), or eight weeks have passed since a COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in 5-11-year-olds

Each jurisdiction will rescind its order when the criteria are met in that respective county or city.

"Indoor masking has helped to lower case counts, hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths, so we don’t want to remove this important layer of COVID prevention too hastily," Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County, said in a statement. "These regional metrics will help keep our community safe and ensure that our case rates are low and stable, our hospitals are in good shape, and vaccination rates are robust."

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that the city's mandate would be lifted Oct. 15 in certain limited settings as long as case and hospitalization rates remain stable. Those settings may include offices, gyms and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings, and indoor college classes or other regular organized gatherings not exceeding 100 people.

"I’m excited that we’re once again at a place where we can begin easing the mask requirements, which is the direct result of the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, our cases have fallen, and our residents have done their part to keep themselves and those around them safe," Breed said in a statement.

San Francisco announced Thursday it will loosen its mask mandate at the end of next week for a smaller set of very specific businesses, who have met some strict guidelines. Christie Smith reports.

Most mask mandates in the Bay Area were issued in early August after a summer surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. Recent data shows those case rates and hospitalizations have decreased, and thus the health officials agreed it was time to change the guidance.

Dropping the mask mandate does not prevent businesses from keeping their own rules in place.

The state still requires face coverings for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in health care facilities, public transit and adult and senior care facilities. Masking guidelines in K-12 schools also are not affected by changes to local health orders.

Contact Us