CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Dec. 22, 2021) — Despite California’s four-week statewide mandate requiring people to wear masks in public indoor spaces, Contra Costa County will follow a separate policy in place since November –allowing some people to unmask in selected indoor settings.
In an effort to counter the statewide rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the California Department of Public Health announced that people must wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status Dec. 15-Jan. 15
The mandate “brings an added layer of mitigation as the Omicron variant, a Variant of Concern as labeled by the World Health Organization, is detected across California, the United States and the world and is likely to spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Delta variant,” the department stated.
However, some settings in Contra Costa County are exempt from this statewide edict since the county has had an ordinance in place since Nov. 1 easing mask requirements. The county policy allows vaccinated people to remove masks in eligible “controlled spaces not open to the general public, including offices, gyms and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, indoor college classes” and in some organized gatherings.
“The limited exceptions we made are for very low-risk scenarios where everyone is vaccinated,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano of the Contra Costa County Health Department. “Our community already understands and is following these rules, and it would be confusing to change them for just one month.”
The statewide announcement to mask up comes at the two-year mark for a pandemic that has caused more than 800,000 U.S. deaths and 5.35 million worldwide.
Dr. Arnab Mukherjea, chair of California State University East Bay’s Department of Public Health, lauds the state and county efforts to decrease virus transmission through mask policies.
“I look at all the tools we have in our toolbox to combat this virus,” Mukherjea said on Dec. 20. “We are slowly learning a little more about Omicron. What we know is that it is highly infectious. If this variant is more contagious, masks are something in our toolbox to mitigate transfer from one person to another.”
Calling masks the “second top tool” to keep people safe, Mukherjea emphasized the vaccine as the first. “I can’t underscore enough that people who are eligible get the vaccine and get boosted,” he said. “It will prevent people from serious illness, severe disease, hospitalization and death.”
Karen Jenkins is pleased to be a correspondent with the Concord Clayton Pioneer News. She has worked as a community journalist on and off for three decades at publications including the Contra Costa Sun in Lamorinda; the Antioch Daily Ledger; the Avon-Beaver Creek Times in Colorado; Roll Call in Washington, D.C. and the Daily Nexus at UC-Santa Barbara. She is also the student advisor for The Sentinel, the student newspaper at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. She may be reached at Karenjenkins241@gmail.com.