SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) – Marin County health officials eased indoor COVID mask requirements Monday for restaurants, bars, retail establishments and other businesses for patrons who can produce a proof of vaccination.
Health officer Dr. Matt Willis called the revised order "part of the process of tiptoeing back toward normalcy."
Willis said that Marin County has become the first to reach the three criteria Bay Area counties agreed upon last month to lift indoor mask mandates, which were reinstated over the summer due to the Delta variant surge.
As of Friday, the county's vaccination rate is above 80% for all residents, hospitalizations have declined and remained low, and COVID-19 transmission has remained moderate under CDC guidelines for 21 consecutive days.
Earlier this month, the county eased masking rules for some indoor spaces where all in attendance have offered proof of full vaccination, such as offices and gyms.
Under the revised health order, which goes into effect at noon, masking indoors will no longer be required in spaces such as restaurants, bars and retail establishments. Face covering requirements issued by the State of California and federal government remain in effect for the unvaccinated, for schools, medical settings and public transit.
The health officer also said individual establishments still reserve the right to mandate masks for all regardless of vaccination status. For instance, masks will be required at the first hybrid meeting of the Marin County Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
Willis urged residents to continue carrying a mask with them while in public, saying they remain an important tool to slow the spread of the virus.
"I'm confident our community knows what to do to limit COVID-19 risk. To be more secure coming onto the winter months, we need to continue to use face coverings in places of higher risk and gain even higher vaccination rates," he said.
On Monday morning at Aroma Café in San Rafael, Roy Smith was enjoying his cup of coffee and the New York Times.
He said he was keeping his mask on to protect himself, his partner and others.
"My partner's not vaccinated," said Smith. "Even though I'm vaccinated and have gotten the booster, I can still be a carrier, be asymptomatic and spread it."
Cafe owner Rajae Mazbar was happy about the boost the lifting of the mandate will give his business.
"It definitely will help, because previously they did lift the masks in Marin and business picked up," he explained.
Individual businesses can have their own mask requirement if they choose. Mazbar says he won't, but some of his regulars like Joan Andrews are playing things safe.
"I just feel you never know when the new virus is going to strike. They always say that one virus is gone then another variant comes in," said Andrews. "I think it's just wise to keep you mask on. I'm older. I'm 63."
As federal officials authorize vaccines for kids who are 5-11 years old, Marin County said they anticipate vaccinating children in the coming days.
About 47,000 of the county's residents have not completed a vaccine series or remain unvaccinated, a figure that includes young children.
Residents seeking a COVID-19 vaccine can visit GetVaccinatedMarin.org to find information on the vaccine and nearby clinics.
Justin Andrews contributed to this story.
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