Cloth and paper masks on August 23, 2021. Masks are mandatory in many cities due to the COVID 19 pandemic. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News)

Sonoma County eased its indoor mask requirements Thursday, allowing residents to forego their face coverings in small, controlled settings in which everyone is fully vaccinated.

Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase amended the county’s health order, which has required since Aug. 3 that residents wear masks indoors in public spaces.

With the county’s surge of delta variant cases and hospitalizations declining, Mase acknowledged it is safe to unmask in some public spaces.

“Our face covering requirement has been a critical tool in our community’s battle to control the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “Given that our case rate is now on the decline, it makes sense to loosen the requirement for certain stable groups of fully vaccinated people.”

The changes will apply to settings of 100 or fewer people that meet regularly and verify their full vaccination status. These settings must also be closed to the general public.

Eligible settings include offices, gyms and fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings and college classes, according to county officials.

The use of masks and other face coverings will still be required, regardless of vaccination status, in larger indoor settings like grocery stores and bars and in any indoor public space for unvaccinated people.

San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa counties have also enacted or announced plans to implement similar changes to their indoor masking orders.

Sonoma County and eight other Bay Area jurisdictions announced criteria earlier this month to fully lift indoor requirements, which include 80 percent of a county’s total population being fully vaccinated and reaching the moderate or yellow tier of COVID-19 transmission as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

County officials have said meeting the requisite metrics is unlikely before New Year’s.