The growing spread of the Delta coronavirus variant has many worried across the globe, with Los Angeles County health authorities on Monday strongly recommending that all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in indoor public places once again.
Individuals in the Bay Area are concerned and questioning if they need to wear masks even if they are vaccinated.
The new advice from Los Angeles County was not a requirement, but rather a cautious shift from the previous state and municipal guidelines that permit fully vaccinated individuals to go maskless in most situations.
According to county authorities, fully vaccinated individuals seem to be adequately protected against infections with Delta variants, but worries are growing for those who are unvaccinated and at greater risk of COVID-19.
Because of the highly contagious delta variant, the new advice follows many similar actions across the globe.
The World Health Organization started to strongly advise individuals to continue wearing masks, socially separate themselves, and avoid crowds on Friday, even if they are completely vaccinated against COVID-19.
Israel, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, has observed an increase in coronavirus infections linked to the delta variant, even among fully vaccinated individuals.
The government has reinstated an indoor mask requirement but has refused to restore more severe regulations, citing confidence in vaccination efficacy and the fact that relatively few sick people have gotten critically ill.
According to a government investigation, the delta variant spread rapidly across the United Kingdom and was responsible for 90 percent of all illnesses by mid-June.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's top medical advisor, said last week that it is the greatest threat to the United States and its capacity to end the epidemic.
The variation accounts for 20% of new cases in the United States, and in the week ending June 12, it accounted for almost half of all genetically analyzed variants in Los Angeles County.
The Bay Area’s Santa Clara County recently revealed that the delta variation currently accounts for 7% of all instances sequenced.
According to the most recent state statistics, about 59 percent of Californians are completely vaccinated, and 68 percent have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
On June 15, California reopened its economy, removing the mask requirement in most situations for fully immunized individuals; allowing businesses to receive people without any kind of restrictions.
Unvaccinated individuals must continue to wear masks inside and outdoors where distance is impossible to maintain. Counties may opt to impose stricter, but not laxer, restrictions.
Bob Wachter, head of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, stated on Twitter on Monday that although he has been slack about wearing a mask in recent weeks, the danger of the delta variant had changed his habit.
He said that he will wear his mask in most indoor situations if he is not certain that everyone around him has been vaccinated.
Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, is not worried about the increase of delta variant breakthrough infections in Israel, citing data that they only cause moderate sickness.
She believes the Bay Area should not be concerned because of the region’s high immunization rate.
Experts urge vaccinated individuals to exercise a bit more care in their everyday lives, such as eating outside rather than inside and wearing a mask at indoor places where it is uncertain whether everyone is vaccinated.
People would have to make choices based on their individual risk tolerance, they say, but if instances and hospitalizations continue to increase, the first step would be to restore a mask requirement for everyone inside.