Home LATEST-NEWS With the Delta variant, more California areas are pushing for indoor masks

With the Delta variant, more California areas are pushing for indoor masks

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Six other California counties are urging residents to wear masks in indoor public areas amid a rise in coronavirus cases and the ongoing spread of the highly contagious Delta strain.

The latest recommendations from Santa Barbara, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Ventura increase to 17 the number of counties now requiring even fully vaccinated individuals to wear face coverings as a precaution in places like grocery stores, movie theaters and retail stores.

So far, only one — Los Angeles County — has gone a step further and mandated that masks be worn in such environments. The city of Pasadena, which has its own independent health department, said it would do the same later this week.

“All community members must take action to protect themselves and others from this potentially deadly virus,” said Dr. Robert Levin, Ventura County health officer, Monday. “While vaccines remain our best tool against COVID-19, masking in indoor and crowded outdoor environments will help us curb the spread of this latest wave of infection.”

The new round of advice means about 56% of Californians live in a county that recommends or requires indoor masks for all individuals, including those vaccinated against COVID-19.

And if the number of infections continues to rise, that number looks likely to grow in the coming days and weeks.

Health officials have characterized the renewed calls for indoor masking as an effective but unobtrusive tactic to curb the transmission of the coronavirus, which has surged following California’s June 15 reopening.

“It remains critical that we continue to implement safety guidelines such as staying home when we feel sick, wearing a mask in indoor public settings, avoiding crowded events and practicing good hand hygiene,” said Dr. Henning Ansorg, a Santa Barbara County health officer, said in a statement Monday.

None of the last five counties to recommend indoor masking have recorded skyrocketing numbers of coronavirus cases. But most have reported an increase in average daily infections from a month ago, according to data collected by The Times.

For example, Santa Barbara County has reported an average of about 29 new coronavirus cases per day in the past week — a relatively low number compared to previous waves, but nearly six times the level in mid-June.

In the past week, California has reported an average of 4,199 new cases per day. That’s more than quadrupled from the number a month ago, but still only a fraction of what the state reported during the height of the fall-and-winter wave.

Despite decisions being made at the state level, both the California Department of Public Health and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintain that fully vaccinated people can do without masks in most situations, given the high level of protection the shots provide.

Experts say the latest push from the pandemic is the result of a few factors. First, officials acknowledged that there would likely be some increase in transmission after June 15, the day California lifts virtually all of its coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses and public spaces.

From that day on, fully vaccinated Californians were allowed to go mask-free almost everywhere, while unvaccinated residents were still required to mask in indoor public areas.

However, because many companies and locations have not screened their customers’ vaccination status, it is possible that many unvaccinated individuals began to shed their face coverings, even in environments where they were still needed. Officials note that universal recommendations or requirements for indoor masking would prevent this, albeit at the cost of asking vaccinated people to give up one of their recently earned liberties.

“It just leveles the playing field. It provides protection for everyone,” said LA County health officer Dr. Muntu Davis, last week.

Another increasingly pressing issue is the continued spread of the Delta strain — believed to be twice as transmissible as conventional coronavirus strains.

Since its presence was confirmed in California in April, Delta has quickly become the state’s dominant species, accounting for 48.8% of all cases analyzed in June.

While officials note that the available COVID-19 vaccines appear to remain highly effective against the Delta variant, the concern is that it could easily spread among those who have not been vaccinated or who have completed their two-dose regimen of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna have yet to complete. vaccines.

“Fully vaccinated people are well protected against infections and serious illnesses from COVID-19, including the Delta variants. Vaccinating as many people as possible as soon as possible remains our best defense against severe COVID-19 infection and the damage it can do to our region,” officials in Monterey, Napa, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties wrote in a joint statement on Monday. .

Despite California’s relative success in vaccination, millions of people remain vulnerable. Overall, 60% of Californians have received at least one dose to date, and about 52% have been fully vaccinated, Times data shows.

However, vaccination coverage varies widely from community to community. For example, seven provinces have more than 70% of their residents partially vaccinated. But in eight others, less than 40% of residents have received at least one dose.

The hope is that measures such as increased masking will help contain the transmission of the coronavirus before stricter measures become necessary. But the best way to prevent that, officials say, is for more people to roll up their sleeves.

“If we want to end this pandemic once and for all, if we want to turn the page, we can get it done in a matter of weeks, not months,” Governor Gavin Newsom told reporters on Monday. “It’s as simple as this: If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated.”

Times staff writer Rong-Gong Lin II contributed to this report.

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