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In California’s Bay Area, Alameda County residents will be required to mask up in most public indoor settings again.
Effective Friday, officials cited rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, noting that daily reported cases have exceeded the peak of last summer’s delta wave and are “now approaching levels seen during the winter 2020-21 wave, at comparable lab-reported testing levels.”
Reported cases are believed to be an underestimate of the total.
“Hospitalizations are also rising after remaining stable during the early weeks of this wave. Daily new admissions of patients with COVID-19 rapidly increased in recent days and now exceed last summer’s peak. We expect to reach [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)] ‘High’ COVID-19 Community Level soon, given current trends,” the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency said in a release. “In addition, when COVID-19 cases started to rise again in April, we did not observe in our data the disproportionate impacts on communities of color. That is no longer true and Hispanic/Latino residents now have the highest case rate in Alameda County among the largest race/ethnicity groups.”
While vaccination provides protection against severe illness, the agency said that the virus is circulating at “very high levels” and noted that masking provides an additional layer of protection.
“Rising COVID cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss explained in a statement. “We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end. Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities.”
“We are seeing the same pattern of disproportionate impact on hard hit communities play out again with rising cases,” said Kimi Watkins-Tartt, Director of AC HCSA’s Public Health Department. “Many Black and Brown residents are frontline workers who can’t work from home and are in workplaces where they frequently interact with the public. A masking order will limit the spread of COVID in these vulnerable communities.”
According to KTVU, the mask mandate applies to government offices, healthcare facilities, shelters and rideshare services.
Children under the age of 2 should not mask and the county will not require masking in K-12 school settings through the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
Masks will be required in all other children and youth settings, including summer school and youth programs.
The order does not apply to the City of Berkeley, which is an independent Local Health Jurisdiction.
Oakland International Airport tweeted that everyone over the age of 2 must once again wear masks in indoor settings there.
AC Transit also announced that it would restore its mask mandate policy on all buses “until further notice.”
“We know that policy changes can be frustrating to everyone. However, in support of our frontline workers and greater community, we ask our riders to respectfully comply with the restored mask mandate,” it wrote in a statement.