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COVID-19 mask mandates lift Wednesday. What that means for Sonoma County

Mask restrictions across California and the country are being toned down after significant declines in COVID-19 cases. Locally, though, there may still be places where you’ll have to don a face covering.|

For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

To track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world, go here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

Wednesday morning marks the end of mask mandates in Sonoma County and the rest of California. Nevertheless, there are still scenarios where face coverings will be necessary.

Sonoma County officials are deferring to state guidelines, which still require anyone who isn’t vaccinated from COVID-19 to wear a mask in indoor public settings.

Mask restrictions across California and other parts of the country are being toned down as the latest data indicates significant declines in COVID-19 cases. But locally, there may still be places where you’ll have to don a face covering.

As of Tuesday, there were 8,996 active cases in Sonoma County, which was a decrease of 809 cases from the previous 24 hours.

There have been 464 deaths in Sonoma County since the pandemic began.

The latest deaths, which were announced Tuesday, include three people who were not fully vaccinated and two who were vaccinated but hadn’t gotten their boosters. All but one of them had underlying health conditions.

Here’s what Sonoma County residents should know about local mask rules:

Where are masks still required, regardless of vaccination status?

Masks are still necessary in health care or senior care facilities, correctional facilities and detention centers, and homeless or emergency shelters.

Sonoma County requires that masks be worn by public safety and medical personnel or workers who do not “produce satisfactory evidence” they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

This applies to employees of law enforcement agencies, fire departments, emergency medical services, pharmacies, dental offices and temporary disaster shelters.

Masks also are required when riding public transit or at transit hubs, like a bus and bus station, respectively.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit passengers, for example, will need to wear face coverings on trains and platforms, SMART spokesman Matt Stevens said.

What about in schools?

Children who are in child care or attending K-12 schools in Sonoma County’s 40 school districts still need to wear masks for now.

State officials said they will assess pandemic trends through Feb. 28 before presenting a timeline on when mask restrictions may be eased for students.

Sonoma County Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase said this week she supports the delay.

Discussions after Feb. 28 also may address the status of attendees at indoor school sporting events, which are wrapping up for the year, but have also fallen under similar mask rules.

Can businesses still require patrons to wear masks?

Business owners can still take their own precautions to ensure the well-being of their customers.

Besides asking for proof of vaccination to determine if patrons should wear a mask, they can also continue to require face coverings, regardless of a customer’s vaccination status.

They can also require masks for everyone or at least have verification measures to determine whether someone needs to wear a mask.

This week, entertainment venues provided The Press Democrat with varying accounts on their approaches.

For example, the general manager of the Lost Church nightclub in downtown Santa Rosa said staff recommends customers wear masks when not drinking.

Are there exemptions in Sonoma County?

Yes, but not many.

Children under the age of 2, in order to prevent the risk of suffocation, don’t need a mask, officials said. This also applies to those with disabilities or medical or mental health conditions who may suffer from breathing obstruction if they wear a mask.

In addition, because it would hinder their abilities to communicate, those who are hearing impaired or communicating with someone who is hearing impaired also are exempt.

You can reach Staff Writer Colin Atagi at colin.atagi@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @colin_atagi.

For information about how to schedule a vaccine in Sonoma County, go here.

To track coronavirus cases in Sonoma County, across California, the United States and around the world, go here.

For more stories about the coronavirus, go here.

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