Mask mandates are returning to some Bay Area health care settings as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and in preparation for the upcoming respiratory virus season.
Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties have all issued orders requiring health care workers in patient care settings to wear masks. Santa Clara County already has a mask mandate in place for patient care areas between late fall and spring.
The mandates go into effect on November 1 and will last until April 30.
Health officials say the mandates are necessary to protect patients and staff from the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses.
“We are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, and we expect that trend to continue in the coming months,” said Dr. Anna Roth, health officer for Contra Costa County. “Requiring health care workers to wear masks will help to protect our most vulnerable residents and ensure that our health care system can continue to operate effectively.”
The mandates apply to all health care workers in patient care settings, including hospitals, clinics, long-term care facilities, and dental offices. Visitors to these facilities are also encouraged to wear masks.
There are some limited exemptions to the mandates, such as for people with certain medical conditions.
Health officials say they will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation and may adjust the mandates as needed.
Why are mask mandates returning to health care settings?
There are a few reasons why mask mandates are returning to health care settings.
First, COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. The average number of new COVID-19 cases in the Bay Area has increased by more than 50% in the past month.
Second, health officials are concerned about the upcoming respiratory virus season. The flu season typically begins in October or November and peaks in December or January. This year, health officials are worried about a “tripledemic” of COVID-19, the flu, and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).
Third, health care settings are high-risk environments for the spread of respiratory illnesses. Patients in these settings are often more vulnerable to infection because they are sick or elderly. Health care workers are also at risk because they are in close contact with patients who may be infected.
What can I do to protect myself from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses?
The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses is to get vaccinated and boosted. You should also wear a mask in indoor public settings, especially if you are not vaccinated or if you have a weakened immune system.
Other ways to protect yourself include:
- Washing your hands frequently
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Staying home when you are sick
- Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
By following these tips, you can help to protect yourself and others from the spread of respiratory illnesses.