Santa Cruz County Health Officer Dr. Gail Newel said in a statement last week that a potential winter surge appears to be a significant threat to the health and safety of the community. The health officer order even requires masks to be worn in private settings, including homes, when people who are not from the household are present. The previous mask order was rescinded in late September.
“Unfortunately, a potential winter surge appears to be a significant threat to the health and safety of our community,” Newel said in a statement. “As we look forward to spending time with those we love during the holidays, it is important to protect vulnerable friends and family members by wearing a mask indoors .”
Household members who are alone or with other household members are exempt but applied "when non-household members are present," the order states.
The mandate applies to all people regardless of vaccination status. Residents may remove their mask only “when they are actively performing an activity that cannot be done while wearing a face covering," such as eating.
“To help assure compliance, all businesses and governmental entities must require employees to wear masks and post signage that is clearly visible and easy-to-read at all entry points for indoor settings informing the public of the mask requirement,” the county press release said. “Those working in a closed room or office alone or with members of their household do not have to wear a mask.”
While virus case rates in the Bay Area are not as high as the spikes seen in July and August, officials fear waning immunity and the congregation of large groups of people indoors during the holidays and winter months could lead to a new surge.
Bay Area counties, excepting Solano, were among the first in California to reinstate mask mandates in early August, as cases soared during the delta surge. Some counties elsewhere in California, including Santa Cruz, also made the move, though universal masking was never reimplemented statewide.
For a Bay Area county to lift the mandate, one criterion is that it must record “moderate” levels of coronavirus transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — in the range of 10-49.99 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.