Marin County just became the first in the Bay Area and in the state to enter the yellow or "moderate" tier of COVID transmission, setting it up to potentially be the first county in the Bay Area to reach the new regional criteria for dropping the indoor mask mandate.
The CDC updated its county-level COVID tracking data on Thursday, and Marin County is now the only county in the nation in a major metropolitan area to boast "moderate" levels of COVID spread. Most of the U.S. remains in the red or "high" category at the state level — and California, after dipping into yellow territory earlier this month, has landed back in the orange or "substantial" category along with four other states: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, and Hawaii. This is based on on an average of 66 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, up from 41 two weeks ago — with 50 being the cutoff for the yellow tier.
Under the CDC's rubric, the yellow tier allows masks to come off for vaccinated people indoors, but it cautions that unvaccinated people should still remain masked. But a coalition of Bay Area health officers announced last week that mask mandates will remain in place until a county has remained in the yellow tier for three consecutive weeks. Seven other Bay Area counties are still in the orange or "substantial" tier this week, including San Francisco, and Napa County is still in the red tier.
The other local criteria being used to look ahead to dropping mask mandates is 80% overall vaccination, including ineligible children in the count. Marin has actually reached that benchmark, but most Bay Area counties are unlikely to get there until the CDC authorizes a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, which means most mask rules will remain in place through the holiday season.
SF Mayor London Breed announced that San Francisco will separately drop the mask mandate on Friday for gyms, religious services, and offices where 100% of employees are vaccinated. Restaurants, bars, and theaters will still need to require masks.
As the Chronicle reports, Marin County Health Officer Matt Willis spoke to county supervisors this week regarding a potential lifting of the mask mandate soon.
"For those that are concerned that we may not be prepared yet to lift that additional local restriction, it’s important to recognize that Marin County, by virtue of having some of the highest vaccination rates, is a highly protected county," Willis said. "It also has some of the [lowest] case rates in the nation. So if anyone can do it, we can."
San Francisco still stands at 75% of residents fully vaccinated, including all age groups. It is likely to be another few weeks before authorization is granted for children's vaccinations, so, at least a couple of months before the needle moves based on a wave of kids getting their shots.
Perhaps, employer mandates kicking in this month and next will also cause the city's percentage to rise, though it's too soon to tell.
Photo: Jared Lisack