Deja Vu: San Diego County Asks Everyone to Mask Up Inside Public Spaces

by on July 28, 2021 · 0 comments

in Health, San Diego

Public Service Announcement

BY Jonathan Wosen / San Diego Union-Tribune / July 28, 2021

San Diego County officials asked everyone — fully vaccinated or not — to wear masks in indoor public spaces to slow the spread of the coronavirus, echoing a plea issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier Tuesday.

Unlike Los Angeles County, local officials aren’t mandating indoor masking, simply recommending it. But the new announcement still marks a shift from the county’s message over the past few weeks, during which it has encouraged San Diegans to get vaccinated while asserting that wearing facial coverings is a personal choice.

The news comes hours after the CDC reversed guidance it issued in May, when it said that fully vaccinated people could shed masks in nearly all indoor settings. The rise of the fast-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus, which now accounts for about 80 percent of new cases across the U.S., called for a change in tactics, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the agencj’, told reporters. She cited new research suggesting that some fully vaccinated individuals who get infected by the virus carry’ high enough levels of it to make them infectious.

“This new science is worrisome and, unfortunately, warrants an update to our recommendations,” Walensky’ said. “The Delta variant is showing every’ day its willingness to outsmart us, and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it.”

The agency’ is asking all Americans living in areas where the spread of the coronavirus is substantial or high to wear masks in indoor public spaces, such as stores, schools and other settings where people who don’t live with each other get together.

The guidance applies to any county that has had 50 or more new infections per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. San Diego County easily meets that threshold. According to the latest data available on the CDC’s online data tracker, the county logged about 130 cases per 100,000 residents from July 19 to 25, qualifying as an area where the spread of the virus is high.

In recent weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases in San Diego County has risen rapidly, mirroring state and nationwide trends. In late June, it was common for the county to report 100 or fewer cases each day. But now, 400 or more daily cases has become the norm, with county officials reporting that they were notified of 1,264 cases on Friday, the highest count since Feb. 5. Hospitalizations have risen, too, with 200 San Diegans in the hospital due to coronavirus infections as of last week, compared to around 70 residents a month ago.

On Tuesday, the region reported 720 new infections, 24 more hospitalizations and five COVID-19 deaths, based on a comparison of the latest totals for each of these categories to yesterday’s counts. The county’s coronavirus dashboard notes that the actual number of new cases may differ slightly, as the county occasionally finds and removes non-COVID cases from these figures.

As of early Tuesday evening, guidelines from the California Department of Public Health had not been updated to match the CDC’s new stance, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom saving around noon that the state would issue a statement within a “number of hours.”

Instead, CDPH sent The San Diego Union-Tribune an email saving the agency is conducting “a full review of the updated recommendations released by the CDC today and will evaluate existing guidance to determine the best path forward to protect Californians from the spread of COVID-19 and the highly contagious Delta variant.”

Experts such as Susan Kiene, a global health specialist at San Diego State University, have been deeply concerned by the ongoing surge and were relieved to see the new CDC guidelines.
“I absolutely agree that this was the right call,” said Kiene in an email. “We need every tool we have right now to address the rising numbers of cases and hospitalizations. While we still want everyone to get vaccinated, indoor masking is a simple, easy, yet effective prevention measure that everyone can take to reduce risk for themselves and others until case rates and transmission rates decline.”

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