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County requires masks indoors again — even for vaccinated

By Sam Richards

Staff writer

 

(Tuesday, Dec. 28) With the highly contagious Omicron variant driving up COVID-19 case numbers in Contra Costa County, a new health order was announced today requiring face masks be worn in all public indoor places, with no exceptions anymore, even in certain indoor settings where masks have not been required.

The new order takes effect Wednesday morning.

Previously, fully vaccinated public speakers and performers, and fully vaccinated groups of 100 or fewer people, were allowed to remove their face coverings under controlled conditions.

“The omicron variant is very contagious, and we now know that anyone, regardless of vaccination status, can spread this variant to other people,” Dr. Ori Tzvieli, Contra Costa County’s deputy health officer, said in a statement ahead of a Tuesday news conference. “We anticipate the case rate and hospitalization numbers to increase over the coming weeks. To reduce spread, cases and hospitalizations, we all need to wear masks anytime we are in an indoor public setting.”

Tzvieli reiterated in that news conference that anyone who is indoors, except for one’s own home, should be wearing a mask.

That means all in-person meetings in Rossmoor will require attendees to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. The only exceptions are when actively eating and drinking, swimming or showering and when participating in a religious activity to the extent that a removal of face coverings is necessary for participation.

Case rates and hospitalization numbers already have been increasing. The average number of daily new COVID-19 cases in Contra Costa County has increased 149% over the last week and hospitalizations have risen 31% during that time.

“The month ahead is going to be a rough one,” Tzvieli said Tuesday.

He also noted there have been a handful of outbreaks in residential nursing facilities in the county. While infected children typically fare better than adults and rarely suffer serious consequences from COVID infections, they can pass on the virus to elderly family members, and that children should wear masks around older people.

Cases and hospitalizations have included both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people. Nevertheless, Tzvieli said COVID-19 vaccines, including booster doses, continue to be the most effective way to prevent serious illness from Omicron or any other COVID variant. Visit coronavirus.cchealth.org/get-vaccinated for information on health care providers, pharmacies and clinics offering COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots. No-cost vaccinations and boosters are also available through CCHS’ public clinics by calling 1-833-829-2626.

Masking, Tzvieli said Tuesday, is the second most important step (after vaccination/boosters) to take to counter the Omicron variant.

The text of the health order is available at https://www.coronavirus.cchealth.org/health-orders

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