Won’t lift all mask requirements until county reaches 80% fully vaccinated which includes kids ages 5-11 who aren’t yet eligible for vaccinations; figure also includes those under age 5
“This will allow vaccinated people to FEEL safe removing their masks” – Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano (emphasis added)
By Contra Costa County Health Services
With COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations declining, Contra Costa County will lift masking requirements on Nov. 1 in certain indoor settings where everyone is fully vaccinated
Eligible settings are in controlled spaces not open to the general public, including offices, gyms and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, indoor college classes and organized gatherings in any other indoor setting, such as a religious gathering.
Under the order, participating businesses, organizations and hosts must verify that all patrons, employees and attendees are fully vaccinated before allowing people inside their facilities not to wear face coverings. There can be no more than 100 persons present at these facilities, and the group of those present must gather on a regular basis. Those present should also not have COVID-19 symptoms.
“This will allow vaccinated people to feel safe removing their masks at the office and when they’re working out at the gym,” said Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County. “Of course, people in these places can keep wearing masks if that makes them feel more comfortable.”
Indoor-masking requirements would remain in effect for the time-being in public settings, such as bars, restaurants and retail stores until other targets are met. Masking would also still be required in indoor K-12 school settings.
San Francisco and Marin County recently issued similar orders easing masking requirements as COVID cases and hospitalizations have steadily declined since their peaks in the summer. In Contra Costa County, COVID-related hospitalizations are down to 69 from a summer high of 227 in August. Case rates in the county have seen a similar decline over the past two months.
Cases and hospitalizations spiked in the summer after the state relaxed restrictions and the highly contagious Delta variant swept through the country.
Dr. Farnitano said masking requirements had to be reinstated in the summer to blunt the impact of the Delta surge and keep hospitals from being overwhelmed. With the surge receding, Dr. Farnitano said it makes sense now to lift mask requirements in non-public places like offices and gyms for vaccinated people, who are less likely to get infected with COVID or transmit the virus.
“We’re in a safer place than we were two months ago,” Dr. Farnitano said. “My hope is that two months from now vaccinated people won’t have to wear masks in other places like restaurants, bars and retail stores. The way we get there is for those who remain unvaccinated to get immunized.”
The County will lift its indoor masking requirements for restaurants, bars and retails stores when certain criteria are met, including when 80% of residents are fully vaccinated. As of Thursday, 71.6% of all county residents were fully vaccinated.
Discrepancy in Fully Vaccinated Percentages Clarified
That 71.6% figure differs significantly from what is on the county’s COVID Vaccine Dashboard, which shows 82.5% of residents over age 12 are fully vaccinated, as of today, Oct. 14, 2021 at 11:30 a.m.
Health Services staff was asked, “which is the correct figure, the 82.5% as it shows on your Vaccine Dashboard, or 71.6%? Why the difference?”
Health Services spokesman Karl Fischer responded, “Both are actually correct. The higher percentage, found on our vaccination dashboard, refers to county residents who are vaccinated, and who are also 12 and older. (Younger people are not yet able to get vaccinate).
The other percentage, which we display on the front page, is our percentage of all county residents who are vaccinated, including those younger children who are not yet eligible for vaccine. We began displaying this metric last week, after we announced the criteria for lifting the county’s face covering requirement, because the percentage of the total population that is vaccinated is part of that criteria.”
The 80% requirement applies to the county’s total population, including all of those under age 12, both those ages 5-11 not yet eligible for vaccination as well as those under age 5. According to Fischer, the county uses California Department of Finance projections rather than the 2020 Census Data. Asked why, Fischer said he had to research that.
The statistic showing the percentage of total population fully vaccinated is not currently included on the county’s COVID Vaccine Dashboard. Fischer said he’d look into it and that it might already be in the works to add it.
Please check back later for any updates to this report.
Allen Payton contributed to this report.