With Covid case counts dropping from their all-time highs in January, and Gov. Gavin Newsom pushing an “endemic” approach to the pandemic, a new Bay Area-wide health order will allow vaccinated individuals to go mask-less indoors in most circumstances starting Wednesday, Feb. 16.
The previous Thursday, Feb. 10, Sonoma County allowed an order preventing large indoor and outdoor gatherings during the Omicron surge to expire as well, citing a drop in cases and hospitalizations.
Under the most recent order, vaccinated individuals will still be required to wear masks “in public transportation; health care settings; congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters; long-term care facilities; and in K-12 schools and childcare settings,” according to a County announcement on Feb. 9.
The same day, Newsom announced in a press conference that the state would begin pursuing an “endemic strategy,” downgrading lifestyle restrictions and health protections. While Newsom did reinstitute paid Covid sick-leave policy, the new phase of the pandemic will leave individuals making decisions for themselves about what feels safe and what does not, likely burdening more medically vulnerable people.
“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,” Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said in a Feb. 9 statement. “While wearing a mask indoors is no longer mandatory for people who are vaccinated, it remains a smart and simple way to protect yourself and the people around you.”
While business leaders criticized the impact of Mase’s choice to ban large gatherings amid the Omicron surge, some health care professionals are unhappy with the County’s latest decision to do away with most masking.
“Keeping the mask mandate for 3–4 more weeks gives time for the high case rates (they are STILL at an all time high!) to come down, improved access to high quality masks and rapid tests, and to create a strong messaging campaign to empower all of us to take needed precautions when indicated,” Sonoma County Health Professionals for Equality and Community Empowerment wrote in an Instagram post on Friday, Feb. 11.