As indoor mask mandates lift, Bay Area gyms see members returning

 California lifted its universal indoor mask mandate Wednesday morning, allowing fully vaccinated people to go to more places without wearing a mask. 

At San Ramon's 24-Hour Fitness, members who had left during the pandemic, resistant to wearing a mask, returned to the gym Wednesday morning.

"Prior to today, proof of vaccination was required to enter the gym," Andrew Guerra, the gym's general manager, said, adding that the current policy is to have members attest to being vaccinated.

Guerra said phones have been "ringing off the hook" for the past 24-hours, as members who had frozen their accounts decided to return to the gym, given the easing of mask requirements.

Nancy Overstreet, a Danville resident and registered nurse, has been coming to the gym with her mask on, but is elated to work out without it.

"I was jumping when I came in!" Overstreet said. "It was great."

Mark Koeppen of Danville has a hard time breathing with his mask on, but he's hesitant to take it off at the gym just yet.

"It's just a habit, I think. Everyone feels safer," Koeppen said.

The Contra Costa County Superior Courts still require everyone to mask indoors, and federal rules require masks at airports, rail, and bus terminals, regardless of vaccination status. That's also true for healthcare settings, jails, homeless shelters, senior care centers, childcare settings, and schools.

Dr. Jake Scott, an infectious disease doctor at the Stanford Department of Medicine, said there's no perfect metric to dictate how a state or local county navigates pandemic restrictions, but it comes down to "good judgment, political decisions….[and] weighing the risks over the benefits."

The sharp decline in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across the state has given the California Department of Public Health reason to feel safe easing the universal indoor mask mandate. 

Additionally, 82.6 percent of eligible Californians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Santa Clara County is the only Bay Area county that has not yet followed suit, as health officials there are waiting until the 7-day average of new cases hits below 550 to do so. On Wednesday, the seven-day average was about two times that.

 In San Ramon, the lifting of the mask mandate appears to have lifted spirits too.

"I think it just puts everyone a little more at ease," Guerra said.