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Some Bay Area healthcare workers will have to mask again as threat of COVID, flu looms

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Healthcare workers in several Bay Area counties will soon be required to wear masks in patient care settings as the region contends with continued coronavirus transmission and looks ahead to the wider respiratory virus season.

The mandates, which go into effect Nov. 1, require health officials in Contra Costa, Alameda, Sonoma and San Mateo counties to wear masks in hospitals and other settings where patients will be getting care indoors.

Santa Clara County health officials issued a mandate in March that requires masks in patient care areas between late fall and spring.

“Historical data show higher rates of infection by COVID-19, influenza, RSV and other viruses in Contra Costa County annually between late fall and spring,” Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the county’s health officer, wrote in the order.

“This seasonal increase in circulation of multiple respiratory viruses poses a particular risk to people more likely to experience severe disease and death if infected, including infants, older adults and people with impaired immunity,” the order said.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health didn’t immediately respond when asked whether a similar mandate would be issued for the region.

There has been a recent spike in COVID-19 cases in California and across the U.S. California’s coronavirus test positivity rate was 12.8% as of Sept. 10, compared to 5.1% two months ago, according to state data.

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 hospital admissions as of Sept. 8 was roughly 393, compared to about 163 two months prior.

The Biden administration announced this week that it would earmark $600 million in funding to secure additional coronavirus home tests, as well as relaunch a website that lets households order up to four free tests in anticipation of a winter coronavirus resurgence.

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