OAKLAND, Calif - Los Angeles County becomes the first in the state to require masks again regardless of vaccination status. Bay Area health officers said they’re considering a recommendation.
"A policy to make a recommendation for people to cover their face makes sense," said Marin County Public Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis. "Something we are considering. We haven’t finalized that decision yet."
The about-face in Los Angeles County comes exactly one month since California dropped masking rules statewide. However, Los Angeles has seen a sharp rise in new Covid-19 cases and some Bay Area counties are starting to see it too.
"If we are surging then maybe we should nip it in the bud once and for all," said Marco Cisneros of Long Beach.
Travelers headed to Los Angeles County flying out of San Jose airport Thursday found out masks are back on in indoor settings. Asi Edri, who lives in West Hollywood, didn’t understand why he had to wear one when he’s vaccinated.
"I’m vaccinated, it should help me no to avoid me to wear the mask," said Edri.
Los Angeles County health officials are implementing the new mask policy Saturday night, after an alarming increase in Covid-19 cases there.
"I think health officers across the state are struggling with the same challenge right now," said Dr. Willis. "We are seeing an increase in cases."
In the Bay Area, Marin County’s health officers said the county’s case rate has quadrupled over the past month. San Francisco has seen a threefold increase in Covid cases over the past 12 days.
The Bay Area could follow Yolo and Sacramento Counties recommending masking indoors but not requiring it for now.
"We’ve all worked hard to achieve the gains we've achieved and the freedoms that go along with that so we would be very reluctant to institute any sort of requirement or order," said Dr. Willis.
Counties are seeing more breakthrough cases, which are people vaccinated and then becoming infected with Covid as the Delta variant spreads. In Marin County, one in three cases are breakthrough cases.
Experts said vaccinated people wearing masks will help slow the spread among the unvaccinated.
"I think the easiest thing right now is to just wear your mask if it’s crowded, if it’s indoors," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, UCSF infectious disease specialist.
A mask requirement could depend on whether hospitalizations remain stable. Bay Area leaders urging people to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of serious illness.
"What the data shows us is that with this new Delta variant we will see higher infections of those who are not vaccinated," said Mayor London Breed of San Francisco.
Health experts stress caution not panic. Hospitalizations are far below the peak during the Winter surge.
As for when the indoor mask mandate could be lifted in Los Angeles County, it depends on case rate and getting more people vaccinated.