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Delta variant could (perhaps) bring mask mandates back in some places

The proliferation of the extra contagious Delta variant in the Bay Area and elsewhere has sparked a lot of talk and questions about whether the relative freedom we all experience with lifted public health orders could be short-lived.

According to most experts who talk to news outlets and science reporters, the short answer seems to be that in places like San Francisco, where vaccination levels are very high, there are no new mask mandates beyond what is already in place for health settings and public transport . It is also unlikely that bars and restaurants will all have to move outside again unless the case counts suddenly or if vaccinated people suddenly start getting very ill.

Mayor London Breed was asked on Wednesday whether the Delta variant could lead to a change in current health orders, and she opposed it. As ABC 7 reports, Breed said such changes would come from the Department of Public Health.

“I think the fact that we have so many people vaccinated that over 80% of the people in San Francisco are vaccinated, we feel really good,”

; Breed said – albeit to clarify 75% of The SF residents from today. over 12 have been fully vaccinated and 82% of residents over 12 have received at least one dose.

On Thursday, the State Capitol introduced a new mask mandate for lawmakers and construction workers after a COVID outbreak among nine employees. It questioned whether Governor Gavin Newsom might be considering new mask mandates elsewhere if the Delta variant continues on the current course and vaccination levels in some places remain sluggish.

Also this week, the World Health Organization issued a recommendation that everyone, including vaccinated people, continue to wear masks indoors, but US experts say this recommendation is based on low vaccination rates around the world.

Asked about new mandates across the country on Wednesday, Newsom said according to the Associated Press: “Well, if we continue to get people vaccinated, it will be unnecessary. This is the call to all who have not been vaccinated: Get vaccinated. What more evidence Do you need? “

The New York Times podcast The Daily covered the Delta variant this week, and science reporter Carl Zimmer said he will not pick up a mask to go to the store anytime soon because of how low rates are currently where he lives , and Connecticut. But that can change if the situation changes – and experts seem to agree that if you or a loved one are at high risk for severe COVID and you are in a part of the country where vaccination levels are still low , masking and keeping your distance from people is probably the best approach. The Delta variant clearly spread rapidly, and the CDC estimated on Thursday that it has already become the dominant strain of COVID in the United States.

Zimmer reiterated what epidemiologists go on to say – including UCSF’s Monica Gandhi – that if you are vaccinated, especially with the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you are heavily protected from Delta and other variants. There are some unknowns about whether a vaccinated person can spread the disease to an unvaccinated person, and there has been a small percentage of breakthrough cases that become relatively serious.

As Dr. Arthur Reingold, head of epidemiology at UC Berkeley Public Health, told ABC 7 about keeping masks indoors, “For example, if you are an immunocompromised individual, if you live with an immunocompromised individual, maybe the extra level of protection is a good idea. because the vaccines are not perfect. “

San Francisco continues to see low levels of daily new COVID cases, but hospital admissions have still not dropped to zero – and 25 COVID patients were in city hospitals as of Thursday, according to state data.

Still, the 14-day average of daily new cases in SF has doubled over the past month, from 12 earlier in the month to 24 in the past two weeks. And the number of cases has also increased in Alameda County, where admissions are also increasing. Health officials who said this was mainly due to pockets in the population where vaccination rates are still low.

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