San Francisco and the better Bay Space had been pioneers in imposing the nation’s first regional stay-at-home order in early 2020 when the coronavirus first hit. And the area takes satisfaction within the comparatively low cumulative dying charge all through the pandemic.
However with instances rising and the general public keen to maneuver past the principles, San Francisco is dealing with some scrutiny for its determination not going again to indoor masks mandates.
Throughout the bay from San Francisco, officers in Alameda County — which is house to Oakland — issued a new indoor masks mandate final week. And Los Angeles County has outlined standards that may set off the identical, with officers saying it’s believable that would occur by the top of the month.
However San Francisco and the remainder of the Bay Space have so far held off on reinstating a masks mandate, saying they don’t see the necessity for it.
That has precipitated consternation amongst some San Francisco residents, who’ve begun to repeatedly voice anger at conferences of the town’s well being fee, urging them to reimplement a common indoor masks order, or at the least order one for the town’s Muni public transportation system.
In response to a Instances evaluation of state information launched Tuesday, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties had the worst coronavirus case charges in California: 401 and 400 coronavirus instances every week, respectively, for each 100,000 residents. A charge of 100 and above is taken into account a excessive diploma of transmission.
However San Francisco well being officer Dr. Susan Philip mentioned Tuesday the town has a few of the highest vaccination charges within the nation, high-quality masks and anti-COVID medication are plentiful, and hospitals have the capability to simply accept sufferers.
In San Francisco, 84% of residents have accomplished their main vaccination sequence; in Santa Clara County, it’s 86%; and in Alameda County, it’s 83%. In contrast, L.A. County’s vaccination charge is 72%; the nationwide vaccination charge is 67%.
Philip credited San Francisco’s earlier robust strategy on well being orders with saving lives. “It has contributed to having San Francisco actually be capable to be pleased with having the bottom dying charge of any massive metropolis and any massive county in the USA,” she mentioned at Tuesday’s well being fee assembly.
However this part of the pandemic is completely different.
“Circumstances are excessive — they’re nonetheless excessive — though they’re decrease than through the Omicron surge of BA.1 this winter. And extreme illness leading to hospitalizations is just not as excessive as through the winter surge, happily,” Philip mentioned. “We now have available high-quality masks like N95s, KN95s and KF94s. Most significantly, we’ve among the many highest charges of vaccination on the planet in our metropolis.”
San Francisco well being director Dr. Grant Colfax added that the town’s “hospital capability stays sufficient to look after individuals with COVID.”
Nonetheless, a masks order may be wanted once more sooner or later if there’s a brand new variant that causes extreme sickness that may’t be prevented by present vaccinations or handled by medication, Philip mentioned.
“I hope that doesn’t occur. But when it does, we might want to return to generalized orders, together with masking mandates, and so they should be strictly enforced,” Philip mentioned. “It’s my feeling that we must always wait and actually use one thing like a well being order once we get to that time.”
Some residents expressed dismay at Philip’s determination.
Elissa Matross, 75, chatting with well being commissioners, mentioned the shortage of a masks mandate on the town’s Muni bus and rail system has pressured her to desert Muni and take Bay Space Speedy Transit as an alternative. BART does have a masks order on its commuter rail system however goes to fewer locations.
“As a newly retired San Francisco Unified College District instructor, I envisioned a life that even with COVID, I’d be capable to experience Muni to physician’s appointments, parks and museums,” she informed commissioners. “I’ve underlying well being points, which makes the chance of contracting COVID and lengthy COVID terrifying. I’ve a medically fragile husband with restricted mobility, and two 1-year-old grandchildren who’re too younger for vaccines. I need to preserve them secure.”
The Santa Clara County public well being director and well being officer, Dr. Sara Cody, mentioned at a information convention in Could that she didn’t intend to reorder a masks mandate for the Bay Space’s most populous county.
“At this level, we don’t have any plans to do something aside from being aligned with the state almost about a masks requirement,” Cody mentioned on the time. “The state nonetheless strongly recommends masking indoors, and we nonetheless strongly advocate masking indoors.”
Whereas a rise in new weekly coronavirus-positive sufferers in hospitals is among the standards that may set off masks suggestions from the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, Cody informed the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that essentially the most important impact hospitals are reporting from the present wave is staff being out sick with COVID-19.
“What we’re not seeing to date with this wave is lots of people who’re getting critically sick and requiring hospitalization for his or her COVID an infection. In fact, we’re seeing a few of that, however not within the dramatic approach that we’ve seen in different waves,” Cody mentioned.
In contrast, the well being officer of Alameda County, east of San Francisco and north of Santa Clara County, final week reimplemented a masks order. The brand new requirement for the Bay Space’s second most populous county, house to Oakland, doesn’t apply to Berkeley, which has a separate public well being division.
“Rising COVID instances in Alameda County at the moment are resulting in extra individuals being hospitalized,” Alameda County well being officer Dr. Nicholas Moss mentioned in a press release. “We can not ignore the info, and we are able to’t predict when this wave might finish. Placing our masks again on offers us the most effective alternative to restrict the affect of a protracted wave on our communities.”
Some applauded Moss’ transfer.
“These selections should not taken flippantly. I recognize the brave management displayed by Alameda County’s well being officer and hope it is going to be sufficient to gradual unfold,” tweeted Dr. Noha Aboelata, a household doctor and chief government of Roots Neighborhood Well being Middle in Oakland.
There are some exemptions in Alameda County’s newest order, resembling permitting individuals on the health club “actively engaged in intervals of heavy exertion” to be maskless.
At a campus briefing final week, Dr. George Rutherford, a UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious-disease knowledgeable, was requested by a colleague why he thought San Francisco wasn’t imposing a masks mandate.
“These are actually type of very shut calls,” Rutherford mentioned.
Elected officers have had differing ideas about masks mandates. In February, one member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, Cindy Chavez, criticized a call to retain a neighborhood masks order longer than required by the state.
In Alameda County, against this, county Supervisor Keith Carson mentioned in mid-February he thought the native masks mandate ought to’ve continued for an extended time frame. Moss, the Alameda County well being officer, in February agreed to raise the indoor masks mandate as quickly because the state allowed counties to take action.
In Los Angeles County, Public Well being Director Barbara Ferrer has constantly mentioned that if the county is designated as having a excessive COVID-19 neighborhood stage as outlined by the CDC, officers will reinstate a common masks mandate in indoor settings for these 2 and older.
As soon as a county enters a excessive COVID-19 neighborhood stage, the CDC recommends common masking in indoor public settings.
Ferrer final week mentioned she applauded Alameda County’s determination to reinstate a masks mandate. She additionally has expressed assist for different establishments, resembling UCLA, in implementing masks orders, saying native leaders are neighborhood information to make selections to supply “most safety, significantly for these individuals most susceptible.”
L.A. County has already imposed a neighborhood masks order in public transportation settings, resembling on buses, trains, app-hailed rides, subway stations and in airport terminals.
In contrast with the San Francisco Bay Space, Los Angeles County is structurally extra susceptible to the worst results of the coronavirus, in response to analysis, partially as a result of comparatively increased ranges of poverty and enormous swaths of communities the place there’s overcrowding.
L.A. County’s cumulative COVID-19 dying charge is considerably increased than that of the Bay Space.
“There may be a formidable physique of respected analysis at this level that exhibits how masks scale back the chance for people and gradual viral transmission locally,” Ferrer mentioned.