The Oakland City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to bring back mandatory masking at all indoor public facilities in order to fight rising cases of COVID, flu, and RSV.
The move culminates in a year where Oakland had continual on again-off again masking policies. Mandatory indoor public masking had initially ended in the Spring due to the end of the COVID-19 winter surge, only to be reinstated once again in early June. While that mandate once went away again later in the summer, the city facility mandate stayed in effect until November 28th. However, protestors in favor of the return of the mandate, as well as spikes in the number of COVID-19, flu, and RSV in Alameda County, played against the end of the mandate, with the City Council reinstating it after less than a month off.
Specifically, the mandate will require masks for all those ages 6 and up going into indoor government buildings, which include libraries and courthouses. The mandate is effective immediately.
Thank you to Oakland City Council for stepping up where our public health leaders have failed, and restoring the mask requirement in govt buildings!
— Jenn (@JenniferLerner1) December 21, 2022
“There are millions of people for whom unmasking is dangerous, including those who cannot be vaccinated, individuals who are immunocompromised, and people with various disabilities and ‘pre-existing conditions,” said Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan. “Mayor Libby Schaaf had lifted the prior mandate with no discussion.”
City Councilman Dan Kalb, who brought forth the return of the mandate for voting along with Kaplan, added on Tuesday, “There are millions of people for whom unmasking is dangerous, including those who cannot be vaccinated, individuals who are immunocompromised, and people with various disabilities and ‘pre-existing conditions. Given the rise in cases, wearing high quality masks is the best thing we can do right now.”
“With increased hospitalizations, with increased infection rates, with new variants coming out recently and to be expected in the future, we have an obligation to protect both our employees and the residents who come indoors into city buildings and make sure they are fully protected.”
With the Oakland City Hall and other government buildings currently closed to the public, and employees still being required to be vaccinated, the mandate of Tuesday returned Oakland to being one of the top restrictive Californian cities due to COVID-19 regulations.
“No other city is acting out as much as they are,” Rogerio Luna, a COVID-19 restriction researcher in San Diego, told the Globe on Wednesday. “Los Angeles, for example, is right now contemplating a public indoor masking mandate return come next month. Not great, but they’re basing it on CDC guidelines and giving it a few weeks to make sure levels remain high. Other cities are just not putting it back on no matter what, since they don’t want to go through all that again.”
“In Oakland, it was just one City Council vote, and boom, mandate back for all city government buildings, no matter how broad it is. Even in San Francisco they aren’t doing this. San Francisco. Rather than take a calm and measured approach, they’re instead doing a knee-jerk reaction to it. Not exactly the best strategy.”
While there is no current end date for the new mandate, a budget proposal on how much it would cost to provide masks at all Oakland Government buildings through April 1st is to be discussed soon, marking a possible March 31st end date next year.