County requires masks indoors in public places

By Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, Staff Writer, SoCoNews, December 31, 2021

Delphine Ryan and Flynn Ryan show off their vaccine Band-Aid at a vaccine clinic in Healdsburg.

Sonoma County is joining four other Bay Area counties in rescinding exemptions to local public health orders that allowed stable groups of fully vaccinated people to remove their masks indoors in some workplaces, gyms, churches and other public settings. The mask exemption will be rescinded at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask in all indoor public settings.

Four other Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and the City of Berkeley — have also removed similar exemptions to their local mask mandates in an effort to blunt a regional surge in COVID-19 cases.

According to a county press release, “The action fully aligns Sonoma County with the statewide mask mandate issued Dec. 15 by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). The statewide indoor mask order will last a month, expiring on Jan. 15. CDPH had allowed counties with existing mask orders, like Sonoma, to retain their local exemptions.”

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said in a press release that the county decided to eliminate its exemption and required masks in all indoor settings following a sharp uptick in local COVID cases.

“Increasingly, we are seeing the virus that causes COVID-19 spread among people who are fully vaccinated,” Mase said. “The vaccine works. It greatly reduces the chances you will become severely ill or die if you contract the virus, but it won’t stop you from infecting others. If they are immunocompromised or unvaccinated, they could require hospitalization and even die. Wearing a well-fitted mask indoors in public settings will help keep you and those around you safe by slowing the transmission of COVID-19.”

According to a county press release, nearly 80 cases a day are being detected in Sonoma County among people who are fully vaccinated.

Additionally, Sonoma County health officials are aware of at least two COVID outbreaks following holiday parties where stable cohorts of fully vaccinated people gathered indoors without wearing masks, resulting in almost 40 known positive cases to date.

“While breakthrough cases in vaccinated people are rising, unvaccinated people are exposed to the greatest risks,” reads the county press release.

According to county data, the number of COVID cases detected daily in unvaccinated individuals in Sonoma County has tripled since Thanksgiving.

Mase said while cloth masks can stop large droplets exhaled by an infected person, a surgical mask or other FDA-approved masks are the best option since they also filter out smaller aerosols and particles that transmit the COVID-19 virus.

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