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Indoor Mask Mandate Returns to Alameda County

As of 12:01 a.m. today, June 3, masks are again required in most indoor settings.

Yesterday, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency issued a new mandate [PDF] requiring people to wear masks indoors again. The order directs that face coverings must be worn over the mouth and nose – regardless of vaccination status – in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, and workplaces, including but not limited to offices, retail stores, restaurants and bars, theaters, family entertainment centers, conference and event centers, and State and local government offices serving the public. AC Transit issued an order requiring face masks; masks have also been required on BART. Masks continue to be strongly recommended on the San Francisco Bay Ferry but not required.

Alameda County is the first in the Bay Area to implement restrictions since previous mandates were lifted in February.

Masking provides an added layer of protection against infection from a virus that spreads through the air. Wearing a high-quality mask protects both the wearer and those around them, and having more people masked will help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Alameda Post - New indoor mask mandate as of 12:01 a.m. June 3, 2022

Failure to comply with any of the provisions of the order constitutes an imminent threat and immediate menace to public health, constitutes a public nuisance, and is punishable by fine, imprisonment, or both. It will remain in effect until the County Health Officer, Dr. Nicholas Moss, rescinds or modifies the order.

Exceptions to the indoor mask mandate

Exceptions are made for the city of Berkeley, which has its own health jurisdiction, and local K-12 school settings through the end of the 2021-22 school year, which ends next week on June 8. Masks will be required in all other children’s and youth settings, including child care, summer school, and youth programs.

The County also outlined exemptions from wearing face coverings in the following circumstances:

  • Persons younger than two years old must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation;
  • Persons working alone in a closed office or room;
  • Persons actively eating and/or drinking;
  • Persons swimming or showering in a fitness facility;
  • Persons obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the head or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;
  • Performers at indoor live events may remove masks while actively performing or practicing;
  • Participants in indoor religious gatherings may remove masks when necessary to participate in religious rituals;
  • Participants in indoor recreational sports, gyms, yoga studios, and similar facilities may remove their masks when necessary while actively engaged in periods of heavy exertion, while participating in water-based sports  and while actively engaged in other sports where masks create imminent risk to health;
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask;
  • Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication;
  • Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.

Case numbers reach new peak

According to ACHCSA, daily reported COVID-19 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 an underestimate of the total due to home testing and unidentified infections.

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. The county is expected to reach CDC’s “High” COVID-19 Community Level soon, given current trends.

“Rising COVID cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” said Alameda County Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss. “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.”

COVID cases are disproportionately affecting communities of color, with Hispanic/Latinx residents now having the highest case rates in the county. “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 ACHCSA’s Public Health Department.

Protect yourself and others

In addition to masking, residents are encouraged to continue taking other steps to limit spreading COVID-19: stay home if sick or positive; test if symptomatic or exposed; and keep gatherings small and outdoors or increase ventilation if gathering indoors.

If you are not vaccinated or boosted, ACHCSA strongly urges you to drop into a clinic if you are eligible and talk to your health care provider about treatment if you test positive for COVID and have mild or moderate symptoms.

Visit the County’s COVID-19 website for informational resources. The City of Alameda also maintains a page of COVID-19 information. You may order free at-home COVID test kits from the U.S. Postal Service to be delivered to your home. You may find additional COVID-19 information and links on the Alameda Post resources page.

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