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COVID-19 Information: Santa Clara County and Bay Area, California

Trustworthy information about COVID-19

1. Wear a Fitted Face Mask that Covers Nose and Mouth

There have been several different Orders and recommendations about face coverings - here are requirements and guidelines currently in effect in the Bay Area. 

As of March 2, 2022 wearing a mask indoors is no longer required, but it's still recommended.

However, we are still required to wear a mask :

There are exemptions for:

  • children under 2 years old; and 
  • while communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing.

See the California statewide guidance on masks for more details.

Current recommendations are to wear a mask that is equivalent to an N-95 (KN94, KF94, or similar) although if that's not available, here are some alternatives:

But be sure to wear it properly! It needs to fit close to the face, and cover both nose and mouth.

how to wear a face mask


The U.S. government is now giving 3 free adult-size N95 masks. You can pick up yours at community health centers, many public libraries,  or pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, Krogers, Walmart, and Sam’s Club.

2. Testing, Distancing, Staying Home when Sick

Now that at-home rapid antigen tests are readily available in the U.S., we need to think about when to test to help slow the spread. Definitely test if the symptoms of COVID are present, but asymptomatic infections mean that we could spread it without even knowing. The CDC's online testing calculator helps to make that decision. To decide if we should test ourselves, use the for individuals link below. (The for organizations link is intended to help schools, health facilities, etc. decide how often to test their personnel.)

Our section on Testing has a lot more information in detail.

Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated spaces

Stay home when sickTest often; wash hands often

3. Get Vaccinated (Including Boosters when Eligible)

One of the most effective ways to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities is to get vaccinated against COVID, when and if eligible. As of June 19, 22, anyone 6 months old or older can get vaccinated, and anyone who had their initial vaccination at least 5 months ago can get a booster shot. See the page on Vaccines in this guide for more information on how and where to get these in Santa Clara County.

The COVID vaccines approved for the U.S. are exceptionally effective at protecting us from serious illness or death. They do not, however, protect us completely from being infected by SARS-CoV-2. This is why wearing a face mask and avoiding close contact with vulnerable people is still important even after vaccination.

Vaccinated people can catch COVID, although they are less likely to end up in hospital. Someone vaccinated who becomes infected and has symptoms of COVID (even if mild) is considered to have a breakthrough infection. Sometimes infections are asymptomatic, which means the only way to know that a person is infected is by testing.

Research on the latest SARS-CoV-2 variants, the Omicron versions, suggests that even though Omicron versions are much more easily transmitted to others, the chance of infection is significantly lower for people who have had full vaccination, and for people who have also had a booster, much lower still. (The risk of a second infection in unvaccinated people who had COVID once before is much higher than the risk to someone who was vaccinated. So far, studies indicate that so called "natural" antibodies are less effective at stopping another infection than initial vaccination + booster.)

Faced with surging cases caused by the much more infections omicron variant, the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health (and many other health agencies) strongly encourage everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine booster. As of Jan. 24, 2022, workers in healthcare and other high-risk settings are required either to get it when eligible. Many schools (k-12, colleges, and universities) will have similar requirements for students, staff, teachers and faculty. 

(Press Conference Dec. 16, 2021. In English; en español a los 26 minutos; 中文 32 分鐘; sa Tagalog sa 34 minuto; bằng tiếng Việt lúc 38 phút.)

What can I do After Vaccination?

Once someone is fully vaccinated (at least 2 weeks after last vaccination), their chances of getting sick are significantly lower but we still need to take some precautions - see the links below for details.

Proof of Vaccination

Some activities now ask for proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter or to participate. That could mean showing the card that recorded date(s) and time(s) of vaccination. But it's all too easy to lose that card if it is kept in a wallet or pocket. Instead, it is wiser to keep that card in a safe place, and use one of these alternatives:

  • make a photocopy of both sides, and keep that close to hand in a pocket or wallet or car; or
  • take a photo of both sides with a smartphone; or
  • (for people in California), get a verifiable QR code link to store on a smartphone or other device using the Digital COVID-19 Vaccine Record.

Please don't laminate your vaccine card - it will be needed to record future doses. Be sure that your proof of vaccination is updated when you get a vaccine booster

If you don't have your original vaccination card with you when getting the next dose, check to make sure that your digital vaccination record - see below - has been updated with that information. If it has not, follow the process for a lost vaccination card to correct your information.

What if you've lost your vaccination card? For people in Santa Clara County, here's advice from our county Public Health Department:

Request vaccine verification from the state

visit the vaccination site (if it is still open)

contact the healthcare provider that administered the vaccine

Advice on Travel

COVID-19 is pandemic; people are infected all over the world. Travel was - and is - the main way this disease is spread from community to community, from my town to your town, and between countries. That regulation is still in effect as of June 2021.

As of January 29, 2021, the federal government requires everyone to wear a mask when using transit (including air travel).

While public transit is a necessity in the traffic-congested Bay Area, there's also concern about possible spread of the novel coronavirus on buses and trains. Routes may be changed during the pandemic, and policies may change - check the websites relevant for you frequently.

To slow the spread of the novel coronavirus in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control publishes updates, recommendations for travelers, and news about travel restrictions.

Be aware of the travel restrictions in place, both for the destination and for when you return home (may be required to quarantine when arrive). Check these sources for the most recent information.

Besides considering the risks of traveling to and from your destination, also investigate what's done at your lodging to limit exposure (ask about hotel or B&B cleaning practices) and calculate the risks of the kinds of activities you plan to include on the trip.

Despite airline bans on carrying on liquids and gels, travelers are permitted to bring some amounts of hand sanitizer onto a plane - see these links for details.

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