Bay Area health officers set guidelines for easing indoor masking mandates

With the summer surge of COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area receding, health officers for eight counties and the City of Berkeley have established new criteria for lifting indoor masking requirements.

Moving forward, the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and the City of Berkeley will independently lift their respective indoor masking requirement in public spaces when all the following occur:

  • The jurisdiction reaches the moderate (yellow) COVID-19 transmission tier, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control & 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 percent of the jurisdiction’s total population is fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson (booster doses not considered)


  • Eight weeks have passed since a COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by federal and state authorities for 5- to 11-year-olds (an FDA advisory committee is scheduled to consider an application from Pfizer-BioNTech to grant emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds on Oct. 26.)

Santa Clara County is currently in the orange COVID-19 transmission tier but is currently “trending down,” County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said. Currently, 72 percent of the County’s total population has been fully vaccinated. Dr. Cody said it is “hard to say when the County will be able to reach all metrics.”

Lifting of indoor masking requirements will not pertain to healthcare facilities, public transit and adult and senior care facilities, per state requirements. Also remaining in effect is the state requirement mandating that people not fully vaccinated continue to wear masks in indoor businesses and public spaces. California’s masking guidelines in K-12 schools would also not be affected by changes to local health orders.

Also, businesses, nonprofits, churches or others with public indoor spaces can impose their own masking requirements.

“The criteria were developed to assist in determining the safest time to lift the indoor masking orders, based on regional scientific and medical consensus,” according to the health officers. “The criteria also provide safety for school children, ages 5-11, who need the added protection of masks in the community to keep case rates low so they can remain in school until they can be vaccinated.”

Dr. Cody credited indoor masking with helping to “lower case counts, hospitalizations and COVID-19 deaths, so we don’t want to remove this important layer of COVID prevention too hastily.

“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,” Dr. Cody said.

For more information, visit County sites here and here.