In alignment with the state, 11 Bay Area counties, including Santa Cruz County, and the City of Berkeley will lift universal mask requirements for most indoor public settings on Feb. 16.
Unvaccinated individuals over the age of 2 will continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings. Businesses, venue operators and hosts may continue to require patrons to wear masks.
The change aligns with the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) decision to let expire the statewide indoor mask requirement, which was instated on Dec. 15 during the latest Covid-19 surge as a result of the Omicron variant of the disease.
Indoor masking is still required by the state for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, in the following settings:
- Public transportation
- Health care settings
- Congregate settings, like correctional facilities and homeless shelters
- Long term care facilities
- K-12 schools
- Childcare settings
In a joint statement, health officers from the 12 Bay Area jurisdictions, in alignment with CDPH, continued to strongly recommend masks be used to slow the spread of the virus, especially when case rates are high or when additional personal protection is needed.
They say that continuing to mask in indoor public settings, especially crowded or poorly ventilated spaces, remains the safest choice for an individual and helps protect those who are medically vulnerable or are not able to get vaccinated, such as young children.
As evidence continues to show, vaccinations and boosters remain the best defense against the virus, the joint statement read.
After reaching a high on Jan. 20 of 1,263 new cases in a day, Santa Cruz County case rates have declined to a 7-day average of 117 as of Feb. 7, according to County Health spokesperson Corinne Hyland. Meanwhile, hospitalizations, a lagging indicator of the disease, have begun to decrease.
CDPH continues to require masking in K-12 school settings but has indicated adjustments to the state’s policies will be shared in the coming weeks.