Marin County on Monday becomes the first in the Bay Area to drop the broad indoor mask mandate that went back into effect across the region in early August, as case rates drop and the county's vaccination rate outpaces other counties.
Also on Monday, November 1, Alameda and Contra Costa counties dropped their indoor mask rule for gyms, offices, and small religious gatherings — similar to the amended mask order that San Francisco issued two weeks ago.
All counties will continue to require masks, under state law, in schools, healthcare settings, nursing homes, and on public transit.
Health officers in eight of the nine Bay Area counties agreed to a framework last month in which each county will lift the broad indoor mask order when certain criteria are met in terms of virus transmission and vaccinations. While Marin County has achieved the needed 80% vaccination rate for all residents of all ages, other counties are going to need to vaccinate some more adults as well as children ages 5 to 11 in order to reach that metric. The best estimate is that most of the Bay Area will qualify to drop mask rules in bars and restaurants by January, unless we face another winter surge.
San Francisco joined Marin and San Mateo counties in the CDC's yellow or "moderate" tier for COVID transmission as of two weeks ago, and that is the other main criteria to be reached for more mask rules to go away. Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and Napa counties are all still in the orange tier, indicating substantial virus transmission (over 50 cases per 100,000 residents) is still happening daily.
Solano County never re-instituted its indoor masking requirement in August, but individual cities including Vallejo and Benecia have issued their own.
Starting today, vaccinated restaurant-goers and staffers will no longer need to be masked across Marin County, though individual business owners may still keep their own rules in place. And gym-goers can drop their masks as well in the East Bay.
As El Sobrante resident Christine Cabras told ABC 7, "I'd rather not wear a mask when I work out. I just got my booster so I'm pretty excited about it."
"I'm going to be cautious in large crowds and I might still choose to wear my mask," says Ed Davis of San Anselmo, speaking to KTVU. "But I'm just happy it seems like things are starting to get back to normal."
Speaking of large crowds, the massive number of people at Outside Lands this year was largely unmasked, though masks were encouraged and technically required inside the SOMA dance tent. Outdoor music festivals where there's a vaccination requirement have so far not proven to be significant spreading events, including Lollapalooza, which happened over the summer in Chicago in the midst of the Delta surge. But who knows?!
Related: COVID Cases Level Off, Hospitalizations Depressingly Tick Upward In California
Top image: A Fitness SF customer rides a stationary bike without a face mask a Fitness SF gym on October 15, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)