SAN JOSE, California. – Twelve Bay Area health officials on Friday recommended that people wear masks indoors amid a new wave of COVID cases and hospitalizations.
The Bay Area now has California’s highest rates of COVID infection driven by Omicron subvariants, according to a joint press release.
Although not required Masking is highly recommended by the California Department of Health and Human Services for most public interiors.
San Francisco reports that more than 60 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19, the largest increase in the Bay Area. dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease physician and professor of medicine at UCSF, said it was a manageable caseload for hospitals.
“At this point there is so much immunity that we are seeing cases, but they are mostly mild and essentially our hospitalizations still remain low,” Gandhi said.
Bay Area health officials said wearing higher-quality masks like the N95, KN95, or tight-fitting surgical masks indoors is a smart choice that helps people protect their health.
“If you’ve recently decided not to wear a mask in public indoor spaces, now is a good time to start again,” said Dr. Santa Clara County Assistant Health Commissioner George Han in a statement. “This is where highly contagious subvariants spread. When you add layers of protection like a quality mask, it reduces the risk to you and the chance of infecting others.”
By recommending rather than requiring masks, health officials are leaving it up to each person to determine their own risk. Some already are when it comes to food.
At Piperade, a French Basque restaurant on San Francisco’s Battery Street, Gerald Hirigoyen, the owner, said an increasing number of people have chosen to dine al fresco in recent weeks and that the rise in COVID-19 cases could affect their choice.
Fortunately, its fully vaccinated staff has remained healthy during this recent spike in cases. Masks are optional depending on employee preferences.
“So far [COVID-19 cases surging] doesn’t translate to business just yet,” Hirigoyen said. “It’s day-to-day, we’ll have to see what happens.”
Health officials also said people should get vaccinated. In San Francisco, for example, 84% of eligible residents are vaccinated.
The recommendation was sent out by Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley.
The sombre milestone of 1 million deaths from COVID in the United States underscores the need for continued vigilance against the virus.
The health officials’ joint statement also encouraged the public to ask their doctors about antiviral drugs like Paxlovid for people at higher risk of serious illnesses. It’s an option for some that may help shorten their course of symptoms if they test positive.
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Rudi Miller, who graduated from Berkeley Law School on Friday, was grateful that a recent spike in COVID-19 infections among her classmates last month had largely cleared up in time for graduation.
“I think the school officials handled it really well, and the numbers went down significantly by the time graduation was completed,” Miller said.
She plans to move to San Francisco shortly and also plans to wear a mask most of the time.
“I’m comfortable continuing to mask,” Miller said, “because I think it’s the best way to fight COVID.”
KTVU’s Emma Goss contributed to this report.