What to know as California mask mandate expires: Bay Area guidance on COVID-19 changes in your county

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — California health officials will lift the mandatory ban on COVID-19 face masks in public places for vaccinated people on Feb. 15 at 11:59 pm. However, children are still required to wear masks at school for at least another two weeks.

Health and Human Services Agency Sec. Dr. Mark Ghali announced at a press conference Monday that the state will reevaluate the current mask requirements for schools on Feb. 28.

Most Bay Area counties, with the exception of Santa Clara County, will follow the state’s lead and eliminate indoor mask requirements as micromicron infections decrease.

Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley will remove all-purpose mask requirements for most indoor public places starting Wednesday, February 16th.

RELATED: Mask requirement to remain in place for California schools as recommendations lift for other indoor activities

Officials have argued that the spread of COVID has also dropped significantly across the region and that the relaxation of mask requirements is part of a transition to a “new normal” for living with the virus, rather than an attempt to completely quell its spread.

“We can take the next major step in removing the universal indoor mask requirement because we have laid a solid foundation for good public health protection, especially vaccines and boosters, and we know we can reduce severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths,” the employee said. Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Ori Zwieli.

RELATED: Masks to be removed in almost the entire Bay Area

Santa Clara County Health Director Sarah Cody disagrees.

“In Santa Clara County, we’re taking a different course: we’re continuing to monitor our data and metrics to let us know when it’s appropriate to lift a load,” she said. “So that’s the difference.”

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The CDC said cloth masks weren’t as effective against omicrons, but Dr. Cody said people in her county still needed that protection.

“Masks are a very important extra layer and have been around throughout the pandemic,” she said. “We need to layer, we need many layers when there is a lot of COVID circulating right now. We are still at a high level of transmission from the community, we are in red CDC and as such we are still requiring masks indoors. “


  • Children – Unvaccinated persons over 2 years of age will still be required to wear masks in all indoor public places.
  • Business operators – Businesses, facility operators and hosts may determine their own ways to protect staff and visitors and may require all visitors to wear masks.
  • Where masks are still needed – California still requires masks to be worn indoors for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, on public transportation; medical institutions; integrate places such as correctional facilities and homeless shelters; long-term care facilities; as well as in K-12 schools and child care facilities.
  • Highly recommended by the state– Masks are still highly recommended; vaccines and boosters are designed to further strengthen the defenses.

RELATED: Travelers arriving in California should make COVID testing part of their travel plans, state recommends

Here are some California state government about current recommendations and requirements for masks.

Full list where masks are still needed:

  • Closed public places (until February 15, 2022)
  • Jobs (until February 15, 2022)
  • Public transport
  • Medical facilities (including long-term care facilities)
  • Institutions for adults and the elderly
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, kindergartens and other youth institutions.
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
  • Homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers

Masks are mandatory for unvaccinated people and are recommended for everyone in:


When are masks released in areas that still require masking?

  • Children under the age of two are exempt from carriage at any time due to the risk of suffocation.
  • Persons with the following conditions are also exempted: a medical condition or a mental disorder that does not allow them to wear a mask. This includes those for whom the mask may make breathing difficult, who are unconscious or incapacitated and unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • People who need to see the mouth to communicate are those who are hard of hearing or who communicate with a person with a hearing impairment.
  • People for whom wearing a mask may pose a risk at work, as determined by local, state or federal regulatory agencies or workplace safety regulations.

How effective are sheet masks?

Face masks can help slow the spread of the coronavirus, and single-layer cloth masks are least effective unless they have three or more layers. Here list of masks recommended by the California government.

Most Efficient:
More effective:

  • KF94
  • KN95
  • double mask
  • Fitted surgical mask


Least effective:

  • Sheet mask with three or more layers

Whatever mask you wear, make sure it fits snugly around your face and has no gaps.

Should employers provide masks to unvaccinated workers?

Yes. The State requires employers to provide unvaccinated employees with NIOSH-certified respiratory masks for voluntary use when working indoors or in a vehicle with others.

Unvaccinated workers must wear masks in government offices.

VACCINE TRACKER: how are things in California, when it will be possible to get vaccinated against coronavirus

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