New CDC COVID-19 guidance unlikely to impact Sonoma County’s approach, officials say

‘We are moving towards living with COVID-19 but people should really take the individual responsibility to do the right things for themselves, their families and the community,’ said Dr. Sundari Mase, the county’s health officer.|

The latest COVID-19 guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is unlikely to significantly impact Sonoma County’s approach, local officials said.

The CDC on Thursday announced updated recommendations on isolating, contact tracing and quarantining, among other measures. The revisions reflect a push toward reaching a day when COVID-19 "no longer severely disrupts our daily lives," said Greta Massetti, a member of the CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response Team and lead author of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Sonoma County Health Officer Sundari Mase said the county has already adopted a similar approach, geared toward guarding against COVID-19 while adjusting to it as endemic — ever-present, but managed without the emergency response warranted earlier in the pandemic.

“I think we’re ahead of the game,” Mase said of the county’s approach.

There are no local health mandates in place, but Mase is still strongly recommending people take precautions like masking in public indoors, getting vaccinated and boosted and avoiding large gatherings if they are at risk.

“We are moving toward living with COVID-19, but people should really take the individual responsibility to do the right things for themselves, their families and the community,” Mase said.

She noted that Sonoma County has a high transmission rate.

The COVID-19 positive test rate was 14.1% in Sonoma County as of Friday, according to the county’s coronavirus data dashboard.

For anyone who gets COVID-19, the CDC now recommends isolating from other people for at least five days (starting from the day after either the first symptom or testing positive). Anyone who stops isolating after five days should wear a mask for 10 days unless they test negative on two consecutive tests taken at least 48 hours apart no sooner than Day 6.

The CDC has also pivoted away from recommending quarantines for anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19. However, the federal agency is still recommending that anyone exposed to the virus get tested on the fifth day after exposure and wear a mask around others for 10 days.

Mase said the county had already decreased its recommended isolation period based on whether people test negative on the fifth day, and a few months ago stopped recommending quarantine for close contacts.

The CDC has also reduced contact tracing and is now only recommending contact tracing only for health care settings and certain other high-risk settings where people live in close quarters.

Similarly, Sonoma County is no longer contact tracing and also has dropped its mandates for testing unvaccinated students and emergency responders, Mase said. Getting vaccinated and boosted is still the best single safeguard to reduced risk of severe infection, she said.

The CDC’s update arrived just as most of Sonoma County’s students were returning to school. Nearly 30,000 students started school Thursday and roughly 30,850 more students are due to start school next week.

The Sonoma County Office of Education is following guidance from the California Department of Public Health for K-12 school settings and the Division of Occupational Safety and Health for school staff and volunteers.

The guidance, revised in June for the 2022-23 school year, is similar to what schools followed in the spring, said Eric Wittmershaus, communications director for the Office of Education.

“Although it’s not required, we continue to strongly recommend vaccinations and masking when it’s appropriate,” Wittmershaus said. “We certainly want everyone to be as safe as they possibly can.”

The state Department of Public Health is recommending families notify school officials if their child has COVID-19 and was on campus during their infectious period. The state has also advised schools to notify students if they have spent more than 15 minutes in an indoor space with someone with COVID-19 during the infectious period.

Mase said the county will monitor what happens as students return to school.

“If there is an outbreak that’s in a classroom, then everybody should mask until there’s not more cases,” Mase said, offering an example of a recommended response.

She noted that there is not a health officer order on masks applying to schools but said “school districts are free to mandate that if they want.”

This story includes reporting from the Los Angeles Times.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or On Twitter @MurphReports.

Emma Murphy

County government, politics reporter

The decisions of Sonoma County’s elected leaders and those running county government departments impact people’s lives in real, direct ways. Your local leaders are responsible for managing the county’s finances, advocating for support at the state and federal levels, adopting policies on public health, housing and business — to name a few — and leading emergency response and recovery.
As The Press Democrat’s county government and politics reporter, my job is to spotlight their work and track the outcomes.

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