Starting tomorrow, Aug. 3, masks will once again be required in indoor public spaces — whether you’re vaccinated or not, announced health officials from several Bay Area counties in a press release on Monday.
In addition to the health orders reinstating the mask mandate, the joint press release from health officials of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma counties, and the city of Berkeley, also urged “immediate vaccination” among residents 12 and older as the delta variant has caused another spike in cases across the region.
“Indoor masking is a temporary measure that will help us deal with the Delta variant, which is causing a sharp increase in cases, and we know increases in hospitalizations and deaths will follow,” said Dr. Naveena Bobba, San Francisco Acting Health Officer. Masking outdoors at crowded events, and indoors when mingling with different households, is also encouraged.
This change in guidance comes after several weeks of loosened or lifted Covid-19 restrictions this summer in San Francisco, where 84 percent of residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of covid vaccine, according to data from the city.
Businesses and customers appeared to take the new mandate in stride. At the AT&T store on Mission Street, a sign posted on the door Monday asked the unvaccinated to mask. That will change tomorrow, and Joanna, the manager, said they were “fine” with the new mandate.
Around the corner at Ken’s Jewelry, the owner, Ken, said that most of his customers already wear a mask. He was maskless on Monday afternoon but, he said, he would have one on tomorrow. “It’s okay,” he said of the new mandate.
At Nice Kicks on Valencia Street, the employees were already masked. One customer, who was unmasked, said he kept a mask handy and generally put it on when he saw others were wearing one. “If we have to do it, we will do it,” he said as he masked up.
On Sunday, UCSF Doctors Diane Havlir and Carina Marquez, and Jon Jacobo from the Latino Task Force, worked at the 24th and Capp street covid site to test and vaccinate residents. Vaccinations are a priority, but tests and isolation offer another immediate way to contain the outbreak and break the chain of infections, they said.
All were in favor of indoor masking as another immediate remedy to stop the spread of a virus that “is evolving in front of us,” Havlir said.
Positivity at both 24th and Capp streets (open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and 701 Alabama St. (open Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) has jumped in the last two weeks, to between 5 and 12 percent.
On Sunday, a 22-year-old woman at 24th and Capp Street waited in line for a covid test. She works with children and said her employer requires proof of vaccination or a negative test every two weeks. She remained unconvinced that getting a vaccine was in her best interests: “I’m worried about the long term side effects,” she said.
While vaccinated people are still protected from serious illness, they are able to contract the highly contagious variant and spread it to others — and the new mask mandate is intended to curb this spread. “Vaccines remain the most powerful tool in the fight against Covid-19, including the Delta variant. Nonetheless, the Delta variant is infecting a small percentage of the vaccinated in the Bay Area — who still remain strongly protected against severe illness, hospitalization, and death,” according to the regional press release.
San Francisco businesses are required to implement the indoor face-covering order, and the Department of Public Health is providing signage on the new requirements available for business owners to post in their storefronts.