Alameda County restores mask order as coronavirus cases soar

Alameda County has issued a new mask mandate in most indoor public places, effective Friday, as coronavirus cases rise.

The county, home to Oakland, is the second most populous in the San Francisco Bay Area. Alameda County’s decision represents the first time a California county has issued a mask mandate since Omicron’s winter surge subsided.

The order does not apply to K-12 schools through the end of the school year, or to Berkeley, which is in Alameda County but has its own public health department. . Berkeley’s K-12 public school system, however, has already implemented an indoor mask mandate.

“The increase in COVID cases in Alameda County is now resulting in more people being hospitalized, and today’s action reflects the gravity of the moment,” said Dr. Nicholas Moss , Alameda County health official, in a statement.

“We can’t ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave might end. Putting on our masks gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities.

Alameda County has one of the highest coronavirus transmission rates in California, reporting about 354 cases per week per 100,000 residents last week. This figure has climbed 20% since mid-May. A rate of 100 cases per week or more per 100,000 population is considered high.

By contrast, LA County’s rate is 299 cases per week per 100,000 population, according to data released Thursday.

Alameda County’s mask order will require masks to be worn in businesses and indoor workplaces, including offices, stores, theaters and conference centers, as well as restaurants and bars when they do not eat or drink; and on public transportation, including taxis and rides, and at Oakland International Airport. Businesses and venue operators are required to post signs at all entry points to communicate the mask requirement and “make reasonable efforts to ensure compliance in their environment,” the health order said.

Alameda County’s mask mandate has some exceptions; the county will not require masks in K-12 schools for the few remaining days of the traditional school year, nor will the order apply to Berkeley, which has its own health service. public health. Masks should not be worn when working alone in an office or closed room; while swimming or taking a shower in a gymnasium; or when obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the head or face where mask removal is necessary to perform the service.

Alameda County also allows masks to be optional for performers at live indoor events, such as theater, opera, symphony orchestra, church choirs, and professional sports; at religious gatherings when necessary to perform rituals; and in indoor gymnasiums and yoga studios by people who “are actively engaged in periods of intense exertion,” who swim or dive, or who play sports where masks pose a health risk, such as wrestling and judo.

Masks will be needed in other youth settings, including daycares, summer schools and youth programs. Children under 2 years old should not wear a mask due to the risk of suffocation.

The rate of new weekly hospitalizations jumped significantly last week. Alameda County is now reporting 9.3 new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations per 100,000 population, up 26% from the previous week. That’s close to the threshold of 10 new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, which would put Alameda County in a high COVID-19 community level as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .

The CDC recommends that residents of counties in the high community level of COVID-19 practice universal masking in indoor public spaces. A high level of COVID-19 in the community is an indication of possible strain on the hospital system.

The CDC on Thursday placed 13 counties in California at the high community level for COVID-19, affecting nearly 1 in 6 Californians. It’s the first time since mid-March that a county in the state has been at that level.

The counties affected are Santa Clara, Sonoma, Solano, Marin, and Napa in the San Francisco Bay Area; Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado in the Sacramento Valley region; and Monterey, Mendocino, San Benito and Del Norte elsewhere in Northern California.

Alameda County’s rate of new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations is 75% worse than LA County’s. LA County saw 5.3 new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, an 18% increase from the previous week’s rate.

Sacramento and Placer counties have the highest weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalization rates in the state, 12.1; and other Bay Area counties also had high rates, with Sonoma and Marin counties reporting 11.8; Solano County, 11.5; Santa Clara and Monterey counties, 10.1; and San Francisco and San Mateo counties, 9.6.

Contra Costa and San Joaquin counties also had the same rate of new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations as Alameda County.

The restoration of the mask order in Alameda County comes as coronavirus cases in Southern California also continue to climb and cause disruption.

“If we continue on the current trajectory, we could find that cases and hospitalizations end up putting a strain on our health care system in just a few weeks,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. , during a recent briefing.

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