Several Bay Area health departments issue new mask mandates, amid rising COVID cases

FILE – A person holds a stack of masks. (FOX 11 Los Angeles (KTTV))

Health officials in several Bay Area counties have issued new mask mandates as COVID-19 cases continued to rise and in preparation for the upcoming respiratory virus season.

This week, Contra Costa, Sonoma, and San Mateo counties all issued mask orders for health care personnel in hospitals and other patient care facilities. All three orders were set to go into effect on Nov. 1 and last through April 30.

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On Tuesday, director of Contra Costa Health Services, Anna Roth, told the county Board of Supervisors that since July, hospitalizations numbers due to COVID-19 have increased from 8.1 per day to 12.1 in the county.

In response to the uptick, Roth said, “We are issuing the health order today around masking for high-risk facilities, health care facilities specifically.”

The rule would only be applicable to health care workers in these settings and would not affect patients or visitors of health care facilities, she said.

In issuing its mandate, Sonoma County officials said that late fall and spring brought higher rates of the flu, COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

“Patients and residents in our health care and congregate facilities, especially young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with chronic health conditions are at greater risk for respiratory virus-related hospitalizations and death,” said county health officer Dr. Karen Smith.

San Mateo County health officials echoed the sames warnings and stressed that as part of the mandate, health care personnel were required to wear appropriate face coverings, which were defined as surgical masks, KN95s, KF94s, or N95s that were “well-fitted to an individual and covers the nose and mouth.”

At least one other county, Santa Clara, had previously initiated a mask order. The mandate, which was put in place back in March, was more extensive, to include members of the public, not just health care workers in patient care settings.

In a statement to KTVU, the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department said, “The health order goes into effect November 1, extends through next March, and requires masking for everyone in patient-care areas of clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other health care facilities.”  

After months of decline, the latest figures from the state COVID-19 dashboard showed new hospital admissions from confirmed COVID-19 cases were on the rise in California, with 2,767 hospitalizations as of Sept. 15, an increase of 16 from the prior week.

Health care officials said the expected seasonal surges of COVID and other respiratory viruses threatened to overwhelm hospitals, jeopardizing their ability to provide care for those suffering from not only those illnesses but other medical conditions as well. 

Bay City News contributed to this report.