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Sonoma County lifts indoor mask mandate

Sonoma County lifts indoor mask mandate
A small stockpile of KN95 masks in fashion.Photo by Paul Goguen

Following guidance issued by the state of California, and in alignment with 10 other counties in the Bay Area and beyond, Sonoma County will lift universal mask requirements for vaccinated individuals in most indoor public settings on Wednesday, Feb. 16.

“Unvaccinated individuals over age 2 will continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings,” according to the press release announcing the changes. Additionally, “businesses, venue operators, and hosts may determine their own paths forward to protect staff and patrons, and may choose to require all patrons to wear masks.” K-12 schools also are expected to continue operating under indoor mask requirements.

The subsidence of the surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spurred the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH’s) decision to let the statewide indoor mask requirement expire. The state implemented the requirement in December 2021 following the emergence of the omicron variant.

Locally, “after reaching a high on Jan. 10 of 248.7 cases per day per 100,000 residents, Sonoma County’s case rates have declined to 77.0 cases as of today (Feb. 9). Hospitalizations, a lagging indicator of transmission spread, have also declined and never exceeded local capacity during the surge because of the county’s high overall rates of vaccination (79.4 percent) and boosters (61.6 percent), along with a local health order that temporarily restricted the size of large gatherings to prevent superspreader events during the peak of the surge,” the release states.

“We have weathered the worst of the omicron surge. But let’s make no mistake: the pandemic is not over,” said Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s health officer, in the release. “COVID-19 is still spreading twice as fast in our community today as it was during the peak of the delta surge last August. As we make this shift toward encouraging everyone to assess their own individual risk, I strongly recommend people who face the greatest risk of illness — our seniors, essential workers and people with underlying health conditions — and the people who care about them, to continue to wear their masks indoors in public settings.”

Health officials note wearing masks — N95 or double layer cloth over surgical — in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor settings, in combination with vaccinations and boosters, “remains the best defense against the virus.”