Sonoma County, six other Bay Area counties reinstate indoor mask mandate

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Amid a persistent surge of coronavirus cases, public health officials in seven Bay Area counties, including Sonoma County, and the city of Berkeley on Monday ordered all residents in the region to again wear face coverings indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

The mask mandate for inside public settings takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday.

“We know that face coverings work to prevent the circulation of the virus, and with contagious variants spreading it has become clear that mask wearing is again necessary,” Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said in a statement.

“Masking and vaccinations are the most important tools we have to end the pandemic,” Mase said. ”The vaccine is safe, effective, free and widely available. We encourage all residents to do their part in wearing their masks to keep themselves, their families and their community safe.”

Businesses are required to implement the indoor face-covering order. Also, public health officials recommended all employers make masks available to individuals entering their workplaces.

Officials said that although vaccines are effective against the delta variant, the virus mutation is still infecting a small percentage of vaccinated people in the Bay Area.

Vaccinated residents are protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, officials said. And in cases when a vaccinated person becomes infected, face coverings can prevent further spread of the virus.

Officials said the mask requirement is aimed at halting the spread of the delta variant, a highly transmissible coronavirus mutation that is thought to be 60% more contagious than a previous dominant virus mutation.

The mandate was issued by officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties, as well as Berkeley.

It comes only six weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom fully reopened the state after weeks of declining COVID-19 transmission and related hospitalizations.

According to the new order, residents are required to wear a well-fitting mask indoors in public settings. Officials said settings, whether public or private, are higher risk for COVID-19 transmission, especially when you are with people you do not live with.

Officials said today’s directive is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health, which recommended that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks while in indoor public settings.

In Sonoma County, active COVID-19 cases have reached 1,500 for the first time since Feb 29. At that time, the county was coming off a winter surge of cases that claimed the lives of 149 local residents during the months of December, January and February.

The winter death toll comprises 45% of the 330 local coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began in March 2020. At the peak of the winter surge, there were more than 100 coronavirus patients being treated at local hospitals.

That dark winter was followed by a springtime lull in new coronavirus infections, with active local cases dropping to about 300 by mid-May and hospitalizations throughout the county dropping to as low as half a dozen.

Local hospitals are once again reporting an influx of patients with COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus. As of Sunday, there were 59 patients in Sonoma County hospitals, and 15 of them in intensive care units.

Last week, county hospitalizations related to the pandemic disease hovered at about 45.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pressreno.

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