San Jose, Santa Clara Co. loosen health orders, drop indoor masking and booster mandates

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Tuesday afternoon brought monumental announcements from the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County.

New changes to the region's indoor masking and booster mandates reflect the widespread loosening of public health orders.

Santa Clara County has long been a leader in pushing for more restrictive health measures during the COVID-19 pandemic and is finally loosening rules.

"As of tomorrow, March 2, our masking requirement will transition to a strong recommendation for indoor masking," County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told reporters. "As it is across the state."

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Santa Clara County is the last county in the Bay Area to make the move.

Coinciding with the county's announcement and on the city-level, San Jose leaders voted Tuesday to drop its booster mandate at city-owned facilities. The rule was put in place last month, ahead of the anticipated spike in Omicron variant cases.

"I am proud that we serve a city that has the highest vaccination rate of any major us city, but it has served its purpose," Mayor Sam Liccardo said during Tuesday's council meeting, addressing the booster mandate. "And it is time for us to, I believe, move on in some form or another."

"And then simply be vigilant for what may come next," he continued.

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There is optimism that "what may come next" could breathe life back into the city. In the downtown core, the hope is fewer restrictions will lead to the return of large conventions, bringing back jobs and boosting business.

"We just need more people in general," San Jose Downtown Association (SJDA) Executive Director Scott Knies told ABC7 News. "We need them working in the offices. We need them visiting- business travelers. Need more residents. We need more students. We need everybody to come back out."

Across downtown, signs for booster and mask mandates at city-owned facilities have yet to come down.

Though Team San Jose- which manages the Convention Center and Arts and Entertainment venues- said it planned to align with the city's mandated protocols.

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Team San Jose issued the following statement to ABC7 News:

"Team San Jose, representing the San Jose McEnery Convention Center and San Jose Theaters including the San Jose Civic, Center for Performing Arts, California Theatre and Montgomery Theater, remains committed to working with the City of San Jose and its mandated protocols for City-owned venues. With great expense and effort, Team San Jose has led the way to provide the safest possible meetings experience for clients, patrons and staff. We will continue to do all that is required to welcome large events and insure the needed economic benefit that they provide to our community."

Knies with SJDA added, "Your money at the small businesses now go further than in any other time in the pandemic, because we're kind of at the end of it here."

Still, the South Bay's new rules come with this reminder.

"As much as we wish it were not true, we are still in the middle of a global pandemic," Dr. Cody said. "And we still do have community transmission of COVID. And, it still is an airborne respiratory disease."

Per state rules, masks must still be worn on public transportation, in schools and in other high-risk areas.

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