Health authorities in seven Bay Area counties advised that everyone, even those who have been vaccinated, wear masks when doing indoor activities like shopping or going to restaurants.
This surpasses the advice provided by the state and federal governments, which declare that vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks in most indoor situations.
So, why are Bay Area authorities changing their recommendations?
The answer seems to be simple, masking is the easiest method to keep people safe while the extremely infectious delta variant spreads, particularly among the unvaccinated.
Despite the fact that the Bay Area has one of the highest overall vaccination rates in the country, hundreds of thousands of people, including children aged 11 and younger, have not been vaccinated because they are not yet eligible.
According to Dr. Sarah Rudman, assistant health officer for Santa Clara County, the advice is really ultimately for the safety of unvaccinated people, particularly in the context of the highly infectious delta variant.
Additionally, it is difficult to identify who has been vaccinated or not in a shop, thus having a standard guide for everyone would guarantee compliance.
Dr. Susan Philip, San Francisco’s Health Officer, said that even in a city with high immunization rates, there are still many individuals who are susceptible to the illness.
Philip said she’s not concerned about the vaccinations failing to protect against delta, but she does know that they want everyone indoors to be equally protected, especially since they can’t identify who is vaccinated and who isn’t.
Experts mention that what seems to be a little increase in new cases, is likely to become a continuous trend of unvaccinated individuals being sick since more cases produce more cases.
The vaccinations are proven to be extremely successful at avoiding severe sickness and death, but vaccinated individuals who get infected may be able to spread the virus to others, experts believe.
About one in every four new coronavirus infections in counties like Marin County occur among vaccinated individuals.
The majority of these individuals are asymptomatic or have minor illnesses, but it indicates that wearing masks inside may help protect those who are most susceptible.
Officials say they don’t want the message to be that the vaccination is ineffective against the delta variant, it’s actually the opposite; people aren’t getting ill as often.
Unvaccinated individuals, on the other hand, remain vulnerable; children and others are just as susceptible to illness as they have always been.
The mask suggestion was deemed absolutely acceptable by epidemiology experts, they said that although vaccination is the most effective protection against COVID-19, other preventive measures like masks and maintaining a safe distance from people in public areas are still important tools to apply at a time when not everyone has decided to get immunized.
The announcement comes after a statement in Los Angeles on Thursday that mentioned masks would be needed indoors beginning Sunday for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
While fully vaccinated individuals are highly protected from getting severe symptoms, authorities believe that requiring everyone to wear masks inside would extend protection to everyone and make it simpler to detect unvaccinated people covering up.
California schools are also now mandating K-12 children to wear masks indoors and on school buses, even if they have been vaccinated, as opposed to federal regulations, which only require those who have not been vaccinated to do so.
In San Francisco, the number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 was gradually increasing, with 21 patients admitted as of Monday, up from nine in early June.
As of Wednesday, Alameda County has recorded 70 cases of the virus, indicating a steady increase since mid-June.
In California, the delta variant accounted for 43% of all specimens examined. The Delta variant is responsible for 59 percent of new infections in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.