SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – With a rapid increase in cases of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19, a coalition of Bay Area County health officials has urged local vaccinated residents to wear face masks again. indoors in public places.
The measure, for now, is voluntary and follows Los Angeles County requiring its residents to wear masks indoors, regardless of their immunization status.
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The plea was released locally on Friday by health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley.
“We call on our residents to come together again in this effort to stem the increase in cases until we can assess the impact on our hospital capacity,” said Dr Susan Philip, head of health at San Francisco.
“The Delta variant is spreading quickly and everyone should take steps to protect themselves and others from this potentially deadly virus,” added Dr Nicholas Moss, Alameda County health officer.
As of June, Delta variants accounted for 43% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in California. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Delta variants are now responsible for 58% of new infections across the country.
“As a precaution, people are recommended to wear masks indoors in environments such as grocery or retail stores, theaters and family entertainment centers, even if they are fully vaccinated as a layer of protection. additional for unvaccinated residents, ”officials said in the joint statement.
“Businesses are urged to adopt universal masking requirements for customers entering interior areas of their businesses to provide better protection for their employees and customers,” the statement continued.
In San Jose, Sushi Confidential owner Randy Musterer said he was not yet sure what he would demand of his customers or employees after Friday’s announcement.
“It’s unfortunate that maybe we will back down again,” Musterer said. “We were hoping we were coming out of the pandemic, especially here in the Bay Area – we were approaching collective immunity. “
Bay Area health workers will revisit this recommendation in the coming weeks as they continue to monitor transmission rates, hospitalizations, deaths and increasing vaccination rates across the region.
Los Angeles County health officials announced an indoor mask warrant on Thursday that will take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday.
In San Francisco, cases are increasing among the unvaccinated. Blacks and Latinos are getting vaccinated at a lower rate than others and the Mayor of London Breed has urged them to get the shot.
She said Thursday that everyone hospitalized with COVID-19 at San Francisco General Hospital is unvaccinated and most are African American.
San Francisco supervisor Shamann Walton said the most cases are in the Bayview district, a largely black neighborhood, “because we are not doing everything we can to protect each other. . It’s a cry to my community… We need you to get vaccinated.
San Francisco has one of the highest overall vaccination rates in the nation’s most populous state. At least 83% of residents 12 years of age and older received at least one dose.
The word that Bay Area health officials are once again asking people to put their masks inside, regardless of their vaccination status, is a disappointment to many.
A Bay Area emergency nurse who wanted to remain anonymous told KPIX 5’s Juliette Goodrich: “There is a sense of frustration among all of us as we have to wear those horrible N95s again that it hurts to wear all day. In addition, we are starting to hospitalize more children who are not even eligible for the vaccine. “
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“I feel like we’ve just gotten back to normal and asking vaccinated people to put their masks back on, I think, isn’t fair,” Campbell’s Ashtyn Civelli said.
Santa Clara County has one of the highest vaccination rates of any major county in the country, with 76% now fully vaccinated. Even there the virus and its variants are spreading.
“Unfortunately, even though we have very high vaccination rates and the great protection it offers, we are still seeing our case rates increase,” said Dr. Sarah Rudman, Assistant Health Officer.
Rudman said cases are still well short of the winter wave but have tripled in recent weeks.
“Especially among the unvaccinated population and those who are not yet eligible, including our younger population,” she said.
Rudman said the recommendation is a way to ensure unvaccinated people wear their masks.
Some have said the recent spike could have been avoided.
“People who are not vaccinated can, like, come by and they think it’s OK not to wear a mask anywhere,” said Annie Estrade.
Angelo Jimenez said that despite the state’s mandate for the mask being lifted last month, he continued to wear one.
“I wear a mask everywhere I go,” Jimenez said. “I don’t want to take the risk. I’m not gonna risk it for my family, my friends, you know? Better to be safe than sorry.”
But Michael Richard Ryan, who is vaccinated, said he felt safe enough not to wear a mask indoors despite the recommendation.
“If things start to get sticky, I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, okay, I’ll go for it,’” Ryan said. “If I go inside I’ll have it in my back pocket, pull it up and put it on.”
He said what irritated him the most were those who chose not to get the vaccine.
“I sit down with someone and they tell me they’re not vaccinated and ‘I don’t want to be a sheep and follow everyone,’” Ryan said. “It’s just awkward. To get vaccinated! Be real. 600,000 people died, is that just what you heard too? 600,000 people.
A man who said he was not vaccinated said he likely wouldn’t wear a mask indoors unless the company made it mandatory.
“I think that once again it will be back to ‘my body, my heart.choice.’ I don’t think we should make anyone feel guilty, ”said John Besmer.
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Maria Medina from KPIX 5 contributed to this report