Midpeninsula Post

State to lift general indoor mask mandate next week, but masks will stay in schools

(Allison Huang)

Vaccinated Californians won’t have to wear masks indoors starting Feb. 16, a return to the short period between June and August last year that saw loosening health restrictions.

The masking requirement still applies to schools, though, and health orders issued by counties — like Santa Clara — will supersede state guidance as per usual. Santa Clara County currently has its own indoor mask mandate, which the health department could in theory keep in place even as the state’s mandate expires next week. Unvaccinated residents still have to wear masks.

In October 2021, Bay Area health officers set criteria for removing the mask mandate, which were that counties must reach the “moderate” tier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s transmission standards; the county health officer must judge that hospitalizations are “low and stable”; and either 80% of the county must be fully vaccinated or eight weeks must have passed since emergency authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds.

Santa Clara County has an 83.9% vaccination rate and months have passed since the emergency authorization of the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, but the county still sits out of reach of the CDC’s “moderate” tier as cases per 100k residents remains relatively high — albeit in the midst of a steep decline from the Omicron-driven spike last month.

Hospitalizations are on a similar decline, though they lag behind the decline in cases.

“The current hospital census is still over capacity, but the dramatic surge in cases and hospitalizations due to the highly infectious Omicron variant over the last two months has declined significantly,” the new state guidance reads. “Accordingly, it is now appropriate for the universal indoor masking requirement to expire on February 15, 2022 as scheduled.”

The state will continue to work with education officials to make the appropriate adjustments to masking guidance in schools, a state press release says.

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