Marin joins other counties to reimpose indoor mask rule
Marin County joined six other Bay Area counties and the city of Berkeley on Monday in requiring face coverings in indoor public places starting Tuesday.
Masking requirements were relaxed after vaccination rates increased across the Bay Area, but COVID-19 cases have increased in recent weeks with the spread of the delta variant, a much more infectious mutation.
Bay Area health workers decided to act on Monday after a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released on Friday showed that the delta variant appears to spread as easily among vaccines as it does to people. unvaccinated – although vaccinated people rarely get seriously ill.
“While most COVID-19 exposures in Marin County are from domestic transmission and gatherings in non-public indoor locations with unvaccinated people, we have also seen a significant increase in clusters of COVID cases. -19, among vaccinated and unvaccinated people, in public places, including outdoor and indoor events and shows where masks were not worn by vaccinated people, ”said Dr Lisa Santora, deputy head of Marin County Public Health.
The ordinance extends to offices and companies, which are required to apply the ordinance on the inner face covering in their establishments.
“The increase in new cases of COVID and the stagnation in the number of vaccinations make us nervous,” said Joanne Webster, executive director of the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce. “Our top priority is to ensure the safety of our employees and our customers. Wearing masks indoors will help stop the spread and keep our economy open. “
At a press conference announcing the warrant, Dr Lisa Hernandez, Berkeley’s public health official, said: “This is not a ban on eating inside. When you are actively eating, you can remove your mask and this will allow you to participate in indoor meals or other indoor activities. “
The same goes for people drinking in bars.
However, Dr Chris Farnitano, Health Officer for Contra Costa County, said: “If you are not vaccinated, I strongly advise against high risk indoor activities like eating in an indoor restaurant, going to the gym. exercise in a gym or go to a movie theater where other people around you take off their masks to eat or drink.
As of July 27, the rate of COVID-19 cases among the vaccinated population of Marin was 8.8 per 100,000, compared to 27.8 per 100,000 among unvaccinated residents.
Only 13.8% of Marin residents aged 12 or older remain unvaccinated.
Santora said transmission in public places usually occurs in places where people eat and drink, such as a restaurant or bar where musicians perform. She said, however, that up to 60% of transmissions in Marin may be in households or at small private gatherings.
“What we see during the summer is that a lot of people go on family trips,” Santora said. “They mix families with vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. They share an Airbnb or attend a private party indoors. This is why you see the order of Santa Clara expanding beyond the order of Marin County to include private households. “
Santora said Marin County chose not to extend the masking order to private households because such an order would be too difficult to enforce and could create conflict.
“We were really lucky in Marin County,” she said, “that the majority of people followed public health advice.”
During the press conference, Santora was asked whether companies should require their employees to be vaccinated.
“We support companies that require workers to get vaccinated,” she said.
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that health workers and state employees will need to be vaccinated or be tested weekly and wear masks. Since then, San Diego County, San Francisco and Los Angeles have indicated they will follow suit.
MarinHealth and Kaiser Permanente have said they will make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for all their employees and doctors by the end of September.
Santora said the new, more stringent state requirements did not extend to residential care centers, where large numbers of vulnerable people live.
Santora said five employees at the Marin long-term care center tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. She said two or three residents of the facilities have also tested positive.
“Our concern is that we are seeing vaccinated people (in these facilities) infecting other vaccinated people,” Santora said, “and this population is most at risk for hospitalization. We will consider whether the new one state order is sufficient.