Alameda County Mask Mandate Returns — Check Your County's Rules

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A young Asian woman, apparently a counter clerk in a restaurant, stands next to a cash register behind a clear-plastic barrier that hangs from the ceiling, talking to a man on the other side of a counter. The woman wears a powder-blue face mask and a red apron over a gray turtleneck shirt and white, black, and blue argyle sweater. Behind her, against the wall, are two glass-fronted fridges full of drinks – orange juice, soda, iced tea. The man is blurry in the foreground and seen from behind, wearing a long-sleeved gray shirt, a light blue hat and a black backpack on his right shoulder. Crowded on the counter are a bright blue plastic basket full of white plastic forks and spoons, and a plastic tip jar.
An employee helps a customer at a restaurant on 24th and Mission streets in San Francisco on March 19, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

Alameda County health officials announced Thursday that face masks will once again be required in most indoor public settings starting at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, regardless of vaccination status.

Alameda County lifted its mask mandate last February — but in a press release Thursday, health officials said COVID hospitalization rates have more than doubled in the last month, and that both hospitalizations and daily reported COVID cases now have exceeded their highest rates from last summer's delta variant surge.

"We expect to reach CDC’s 'High' COVID-19 Community Level soon," officials said in the press release.

"We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end," said Nicholas Moss, Alameda County health officer. "Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities."

Starting Friday, people in Alameda County will be required to wear a face mask in indoor businesses, restaurants and bars, government offices, bus and train stations, hospitals, and correctional centers and on public transportation. While this mandate will also include facilities that serve youth like indoor summer camps, it will not apply to K-12 schools.

Officials with San Francisco, San Mateo, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Marin, Sonoma and Solano counties told KQED on Thursday that they do not have plans to reinstate an indoor mask mandate at this time. These counties loosened their mask rules earlier this year to align with state guidelines.

The state also announced that, starting March 12, masks would not be required in schools and child care facilities, but were strongly recommended. Local communities can still determine their own rules on masking.

On May 20, Berkeley Unified School District announced that masks were once again required indoors at all BUSD schools through the end of the 2021-2022 school year due to increased COVID transmission. Read more about kids masking in schools.

Masks had also been required on public transit across the Bay Area, but on April 18, a federal judge in Florida ruled the federal travel mask mandate unlawful. The Transportation Security Administration later announced it would no longer enforce mask rules inside airports and airplanes and on public transportation. Accordingly, all Bay Area transit agencies dropped their own mask requirements — except BART, which reintroduced its own masking rules starting on July 28. Read more about mask rules on public transit.

Everyone — regardless of vaccination status — will still need to wear a mask in health care settings and congregate settings like correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.

We'll continue to update this guide below with details for Bay Area counties as we confirm their decisions.

What's the difference between California's mask mandate and my county's?

Counties always have the ability to enact stricter mask rules than the state — so if your county had a mask mandate that’s more restrictive than state rules, that’s the one you had to follow.

That's why when Santa Clara County officials announced they would keep more restrictive mask rules in place after the state's mask mandate expired on Feb. 15, those who work, live and learn in that county still had to follow county rules, despite the statewide mandate ending.

Coronavirus Resources

Now that Santa Clara County has announced it'll drop its mask mandate and align with the state, starting March 2 most of the Bay Area will be aligned with the state's new masking guidance. Both vaccinated and unvaccinated Californians may now take off their masks in most indoor public settings, including stores, restaurants, gyms and movie theaters.

We’ll continue to closely monitor whether counties will further update their guidance.

Keep reading to find the county where you live, work or study for the latest masking rules, or use the links below — and bookmark this page for updates to mask mandates in the Bay Area.

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Mask mandates in Bay Area counties

Alameda

On Thursday, June 2, Alameda County health officials announced they were reinstating a mask mandate for most indoor public settings beginning on June 3, regardless of vaccination status.

The new health order does not apply to the city of Berkeley, which has its own public health department.

This means both unvaccinated and vaccinated people are once again required to wear masks in most indoor public spaces, including businesses, restaurants and bars, government offices, public transportation, bus and train stations, hospitals and correctional centers.

An existing indoor mask mandate remans in effect for health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, and long-term care facilities, and in K-12 schools and child care settings.

An earlier indoor mask mandate at all schools that are part of Berkeley Unified School District began May 23. District officials announced this change on May 20 and added that BUSD " is experiencing an increase in the number of classroom clusters which indicate likely transmission in school."

The mask mandate for BUSD schools will be in place until the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

San Francisco

On June 2, following Alameda County's announcement of a renewed indoor mask mandate, San Francisco officials told KQED that they don't have plans to reinstate a similar mask mandate at this time.

As of Feb. 16, people who are up to date with their eligible COVID-19 vaccinations — this includes booster shots if you currently qualify — can take their masks off in indoor public spaces in San Francisco. Officials confirmed that San Francisco aligned with the state's guidance to extend this to unvaccinated people as of March 1.

Indoor masking is still required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and in K-12 schools and child care settings.

Contra Costa

On June 2, following Alameda County's announcement of a renewed indoor mask mandate, Contra Costa County officials told KQED that they don't have plans to reinstate a similar mask mandate at this time.

Contra Costa County lifted universal mask requirements for most indoor public settings in the county starting Feb. 16. Contra Costa confirmed it's alignment with the state's guidance to extend this to unvaccinated people as of March 1.

This means people no longer have to wear masks in indoor public spaces, although indoor masking will still be required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and K-12 schools and child care settings.

Marin

On June 2, following Alameda County's announcement of a renewed indoor mask mandate, Marin County officials told KQED that they don't have plans to reinstate a similar mask mandate at this time.

Marin lifted universal mask requirements for most indoor public settings in the county starting Feb. 16. Marin confirmed it's alignment with the state's guidance to extend this to unvaccinated people as of March 1.

This means people no longer have to wear masks in indoor public spaces, although indoor masking will still be required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and K-12 schools and child care settings.

Unvaccinated individuals over age 2 will continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings in Marin County.

Napa

Napa County has announced it will follow the state and lift universal mask requirements for most indoor public settings in the county starting Feb. 16.

This means people no longer have to wear masks in indoor public spaces, although indoor masking will still be required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and K-12 schools and child care settings.

San Mateo

On June 2, following Alameda County's announcement of a renewed indoor mask mandate, San Mateo County officials told KQED that they don't have plans to reinstate a similar mask mandate at this time.

The county followed state guidance and lifted universal mask requirements for vaccinated people in most indoor public settings since Feb. 16, and extended that guidance to unvaccinated people as of March 1.

This means people no longer have to wear masks in indoor public spaces, although indoor masking will still be required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and K-12 schools and child care settings.

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Santa Clara

On June 2, following Alameda County's announcement of a renewed indoor mask mandate, Santa Clara County officials told KQED that they don't have plans to reinstate a similar mask mandate at this time.

Santa Clara County lifted its own mask rules on March 2, after a few weeks of being the only Bay Area county with an indoor mask mandate.

County officials confirmed on March 1 that Santa Clara had achieved its three required metrics to end the mandate and to, instead, only recommend indoor mask usage. This rule change extended to unvaccinated people, who also are no longer required to wear masks indoors.

Indoor masking is still required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and K-12 schools and child care settings.

Sonoma

Sonoma County followed state guidance and lifted universal mask requirements for most indoor public settings starting Feb. 16.

This means vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in indoor public spaces, although indoor masking will still be required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and K-12 schools and child care settings.

Solano

Solano County followed state guidance and has lifted universal mask requirements for vaccinated people in most indoor public settings since Feb. 16, and extended that guidance to unvaccinated people as of March 1.

This means people no longer have to wear masks in indoor public spaces, although indoor masking will still be required for everyone — regardless of vaccination status — in health care settings, congregate settings like correctional facilities and homeless shelters, long-term care facilities, and K-12 schools and child care settings.

This post includes reporting from KQED's Kate Wolffe and Farida Jhabvala Romero. A version of this post was originally published on Dec. 29, 2021. KQED will update this post as new information becomes available.

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