Santa Clara County could lift its indoor mask mandate as soon as March 2, the county’s top health official said Thursday.
Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said the county’s seven-day average of new cases fell below 550 Thursday for the first time since last month, when she issued a set of criteria to lift indoor mask requirements for vaccinated residents.
Cody said she would lift the indoor mask requirement once the county’s seven-day average of new cases fell below 550, 80 percent of all residents completed their initial vaccination series and local COVID-19 hospitalizations remained “low and stable,” in her estimation.
As of Thursday, 262 county residents were hospitalized with COVID, less than half of the 533 residents that were hospitalized at the peak of the county’s winter surge in cases due to the omicron variant.
In addition, 84.7 percent of county residents are vaccinated.
“These current trends are very encouraging,” Cody said of the county’s falling COVID cases and hospitalizations. “And I know everyone looks forward to the day when we won’t even need to wear masks anymore and when they aren’t part of our life, at least for a little bit.”
Santa Clara is the only county in the greater Bay Area that still has an indoor mask requirement for all residents, regardless of vaccination status.
Ten of the greater Bay Area’s 11 counties lifted their indoor mask requirements last week for vaccinated residents, aligning themselves with the state’s indoor masking guidelines.
Cody, however, argued that the county needed to maintain its mandate until the risk of contracting the virus was lower for vulnerable residents like those who are older or immunocompromised.
“The idea is to ensure that we have safety in place with high levels of vaccination, which we have, and that we have overall community transmission low enough to support removing this very important layer or at least removing the requirement,” she said.
Under the state’s guidelines, masks are still required indoors for unvaccinated people ages 2 and up, as well as in health care facilities, K-12 schools, homeless shelters and on public transit.
Individual businesses are also encouraged to enforce their own masking policies as they see fit.
Cody said once the county lifts its indoor mask requirement, it will still recommend that residents wear them even if they are vaccinated and have received a booster dose.