Update: Berkeley’s indoor mask rule remains the same

Update Wednesday, Dec. 15: Berkeley’s indoor mask order remains in effect and there is no change for people who live, work or visit the city as result of the new state order that went into effect today, according to city officials.

In November, Alameda County and Berkeley health officials allowed offices, gyms, and houses of worship the option of dropping requirements for people to wear masks.

“The statewide masking order allows Berkeley to maintain its own indoor masking order, including our exemptions,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko.

Monday, Dec. 13: California’s move to reimpose a statewide mask mandate won’t make much of a difference in Berkeley, since local rules already require people to wear face coverings in grocery stores, shops and most other indoor settings regardless of their vaccination status.

But the new state requirement — which was announced Monday and will go into effect Wednesday — could mean tighter rules in some local gyms, offices and houses of worship, among other spaces.

Berkeley and Alameda County slightly loosened local mask rules in October, creating an exception to the requirement for certain indoor settings where fully vaccinated people met in relatively small, consistent groups. The state mandate makes no such exception, requiring masks in all public indoor settings.

“The state (order) is more restrictive, so we must adhere to the state at this point,” Berkeley Public Health Director Lisa Hernandez said during a virtual town hall on the pandemic Monday night. “We will be updating and providing guidance in the next few days to provide more clarification.”

The statewide order lasts until Jan. 15. Local mask mandates are likely to remain in place beyond that.

Berkeley saw a small spike in COVID-19 cases over the last month following the Thanksgiving holiday and an omicron case was detected on Dec. 3, according to the city, but increases have not been comparable to state totals — especially in regions where there is no existing mask mandate. The state seven-day positivity rate is 2.2% and Berkeley’s is 0.78% as of Monday.

There were 77 new Berkeley cases in the last week, compared to about 100 new cases the previous week. About 97% of residents above the age of 5 years old have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. See full local COVID-19 statistics on Berkeleyside’s data tracker, updated every Tuesday.