Emergency

Hygiene & masks

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COVID-19 spreads primarily between people who are in close contact with one another. Droplets from someone with COVID-19 can be transferred to others through coughing, sneezing or talking and can be picked up from contaminated surfaces.

Mask requirements

On August 2, 2021, the County of Sonoma joined six other Bay Area counties and the City of Berkeley in requiring that everyone wear facial coverings while indoors in public places to address the increased circulation of COVID-19.

Regardless of vaccination status, wearing masks indoors in public places such as grocery or retail stores, restaurants, theaters, and family entertainment centers is now required.

The new Health Order takes effect at 12:01 a.m. August 3, 2021.

The new masking requirements are necessary because the Delta variant is highly transmissible for those who are vaccinated as well as those who are unvaccinated.

The County of Sonoma is not requiring the wearing of masks at indoor private gatherings but strongly recommends residents wear masks in such settings.

Vaccines remain the most powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Nonetheless, the Delta variant is infecting a small percentage of the vaccinated — who still remain strongly protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. In those instances of infection in a vaccinated person, a face covering prevents further spread.

Individuals are not required to wear face coverings in the following circumstances:

  • Persons who are working alone in a closed office or room.
  • Persons who are actively eating and/or drinking.
  • Persons swimming or showering in a fitness facility.
  • Persons who are obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the head or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.
  • Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing face coverings according to other state guidance.

This Health Order is consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health, which recommend that fully vaccinated individuals wear masks while in indoor public settings.

The State of California has aligned with CDC recommendations for mask requirements. To view requirements, including a list of frequently asked questions visit the State site: https://covid19.ca.gov/masks-and-ppe/

Please note: CDPH has issued a recall for some N95 masks manufactured by BYD, please visit this CDPH field action notification for details.

Criteria for lifting COVID-19 indoor masking requirements in Bay Area

On October 6,  2021, the Sonoma County health officer joined other Bay Area jurisdictions in establishing criteria for when to lift indoor masking requirements. The indoor masking requirements in public spaces that are not subject to state masking rules will be lifted when all of the following occur:

  • The jurisdiction reaches the moderate (yellow) COVID-19 transmission tier, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and remains there for at least three weeks; AND
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in the jurisdiction are low and stable, in the judgment of the health officer; AND
  •  80% of the jurisdiction’s total population is fully vaccinated with two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson (booster doses not considered) OR eight weeks have passed since a COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by federal and state authorities for 5- to 11-year-olds

Sonoma County allows some groups option to go maskless indoors

On Oct. 21, Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase amended a health order to allow certain stable groups of people, such as those in gyms, classes and offices, the option of lifting the mandate on wearing masks indoors if they verify that all members of the group are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The move adds an additional exception to the order requiring face coverings in all indoor public settings, which Dr. Mase issued Aug. 3 to help control the surging Delta variant. The exception is voluntary, so employers, hosts and organizers may continue to enforce universal indoor masking, regardless of vaccination status. Highlights of the order include:

  • The amendment applies to indoor gatherings of 100 or fewer people including in offices, gyms, fitness centers, employee commuter vehicles, religious gatherings, college classes and other organized gatherings of individuals who meet regularly.
  • Employers, hosts and organizers must control access to the setting, and the setting cannot be open to the general public.
  • It does not allow proof of a negative test as a substitute for proof of vaccination.
  • FAQs provide more information.

Practice personal hygiene

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you don’t have soap or water, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue. Wash or sanitize your hands afterward.

Frequently asked questions

The latest health order requires face coverings to be worn indoors in public settings regardless of vaccination status. Public settings include stores, malls, entertainment centers, gyms, offices and places of worship.

Given the widespread circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health recommend that everyone, including those fully vaccinated, wear masks indoors in public. Universal indoor use of face coverings is the least disruptive and most immediately impactful additional measure to take.

The health order does not require masking at indoor private gatherings but Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase strongly recommends it.

Individuals are not required to wear face coverings in the following circumstances:

  1. Persons who are working alone in a closed office or room;
  2. Persons who are actively eating and/or drinking;
  3. Persons swimming or showering in a fitness facility;
  4. Persons who are obtaining a medical or cosmetic service involving the head or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service;
  5. Persons who are specifically exempted from wearing face coverings pursuant to other CDPH guidance.

Governmental entities, businesses, venue operators, hosts, and others responsible for the operation of indoor public settings must:

  1. Require all employees, contractors, visitors, and patrons to wear face coverings for all indoor settings, regardless of their vaccination status; and
  2. Post clearly visible and easy-to-read signage at all entry points for indoor settings to communicate the masking requirements to all patrons.

Under the Order, a face covering must be well-fitted to an individual and cover the nose and mouth especially while talking, consistent with the guidance of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). A face covering does not include a scarf, ski mask, balaclava, bandana, turtleneck, collar, or single layer of fabric or any mask that has an unfiltered one-way exhaust valve.

Although not a legal mandate, the Health Officer recommends use of face coverings, regardless of vaccination status, in crowded outdoor settings.

The order applies to indoor wedding venues, and venues are required to enforce it. The order does not apply to outdoor weddings venues.

“Indoor public settings” does not apply to private household settings. The definition does include businesses that are not open to the general public (employees only) or restrict access to members only.