Amid a surge in COVID cases, multiple health departments in the Bay Area are issuing fresh mask mandates.

Health authorities in several Bay Area counties have implemented fresh mask mandates in response to the ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases and in anticipation of the upcoming respiratory virus season.

This week, Contra Costa, Sonoma, and San Mateo counties issued mask directives for healthcare personnel working in hospitals and other patient care facilities. These mandates were scheduled to take effect on November 1 and remain in effect until April 30.

On Tuesday, Anna Roth, the director of Contra Costa Health Services, reported an increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations, rising from 8 per day to 12 in the county since July. In response to this surge, Roth explained, "We are implementing a health order today specifically focusing on masking in high-risk facilities, particularly healthcare facilities."

It's important to note that these regulations apply exclusively to healthcare workers in these settings and do not affect patients or visitors to healthcare facilities.

Sonoma County officials justified their mandate by citing the increased incidence of the flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses in late fall and spring. County health officer Dr. Karen Smith emphasized the higher risk of respiratory virus-related hospitalizations and fatalities for patients and residents in healthcare and congregate facilities, particularly vulnerable groups such as young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with chronic health conditions.

San Mateo County health officials echoed similar concerns and emphasized that, as part of the mandate, healthcare personnel were required to wear appropriate face coverings, which included surgical masks, KN95s, KF94s, or N95s that fit well and covered both the nose and mouth.

Additionally, Santa Clara County had previously implemented a mask order that was more comprehensive, including not only healthcare workers in patient care settings but also members of the general public. The mandate, initiated in March, remains in effect.

According to a statement from the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, "The health order goes into effect on November 1, extending through next March, and mandates mask-wearing for all individuals in patient-care areas of clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other healthcare facilities."

Despite a period of declining COVID cases, the most recent data from the state COVID-19 dashboard showed an increase in new hospital admissions resulting from confirmed COVID-19 cases in California, with 2,767 hospitalizations reported as of September 15, representing an increase of 16 from the previous week.

Healthcare officials expressed concerns that the expected seasonal surges of COVID and other respiratory viruses could strain hospitals' capacity, potentially affecting their ability to provide care not only for these illnesses but also for other medical conditions.

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