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San Francisco, six other neighboring bay area counties reinstate indoor mask mandate

San Francisco's acting health officer, Dr. Neveena Bobba (pictured) announced, along with health officials from six neighboring counties, an indoor mask mandate, even for the vaccinated, Monday afternoon, making them the latest municipalities to reinstate face covering orders amid a surge in coronavirus cases  

San Francisco, along with six other neighboring bay area counties have become the latest municipalities in the US to order face coverings in indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status.

The mandates were announced by health officials in San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties Monday afternoon amid a surge in cases driven chiefly by the contagious Indian delta variant. 

'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,' San Francisco's acting health officer, Dr. Neveena Bobba, said in a statement. 

The order is an escalation of a recommendation made by the health officials just two weeks ago that all residents wear masks in public indoor settings.

It comes as all seven of the counties have seen spikes in coronavirus cases over the past week, and as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance last week saying vaccinated people should wear masks indoors to stop the spread of the delta variant.

They are the latest local municipalities in the state to reinstate indoor mask wearing mandates for the vaccinated. On July 29, neighboring Sacramento County reinstated its face covering order, and on July 17 LA County did the same.

For states, Nevada and Louisiana have also announced orders for all residents to wear face coverings indoors. Nevada's took effect on July 30, and Louisiana's is scheduled for Aug. 4, and come as cities across the country have reinstated similar mandates.   

According to the CDC, San Francisco County saw 1,513 additional cases last week, a 47 percent increase over the prior seven days, Contra Costa recorded 2,723 new cases, a 53 percent spike, and Sonoma County's case average increased 58 percent, with 684 new infections. 

The mandates come as all seven counties have seen upticks in infections in recent weeks 

Marin County had a nearly 35 percent spike of 282 cases, Santa Clara saw a 40 percent increase with 1,637 new cases and San Mateo recorded 742 new cases, a 33 percent increase. Meanwhile, Alameda County had 2,385 new cases, a 11 percent jump. 

In San Francisco, hospitalizations have also risen to 69 over the past week, a 38 percent increase, but still below its winter peak. 

The orders in the bay area come after Los Angeles reinstated its own indoor mask mandate on July 17 amid its own surge in infections. Despite that, it continues to see an increase in positivity rates, with LA's seven day moving average increasing by nearly 22 percent, with 19,499 new cases recorded as of Aug. 1. 

San Francisco's case surge comes despite high vaccination rates,  with 69 percent of its total population vaccinated. A bicyclist pictured recently with a face covering in San Francisco's Ferry Building 

The surge appears to be driven by the highly contagious Indian delta variant in California, which as of July 21, the latest data available, made up 84 percent of all recorded cases in the state, compared to the month prior, when it made up 53 percent of cases.

Nationwide, the delta variant makes up 82 percent of all recorded cases.

Overall, California recorded 24,439 new cases over the past week.   

The bay area mandates are intended to stem the increase in cases of the contagious Indian delta variant as well as stop the vaccinated with breakthrough infections from further spreading the virus 

The surge in cases is despite relatively high vaccination rates. In San Francisco, for instance, 69 percent of its population is fully vaccinated.

The bay area health officials said the masks were intended to halt the spread of the virus in both cases of a breakthrough infection among the vaccinated as well as for the unvaccinated. They urged as many to people to get vaccinated as possible.

'Covid-19 vaccines are highly effective in protecting people against severe illness and hospitalizations, and the vaccine continues to be our best way to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,' Bobba said. 

In Louisiana, it became the second state to announce mask mandates as it reported the highest surge of new cases in the country, with Covid hospitalizations in the state nearing the highest point during the entire pandemic. 

As of Monday, the state was seeing 11,109 new cases with 27 new reported deaths and 1,984 people with COVID in the hospital, of whom 213 were on ventilators, according to the state Department of Health. 

The state remains number one nationwide for number of new cases per capita, according to KATC.The positivity rate in the state is 13 percent 

'It has become clear that our current mitigation in place cannot deal with our current surge of COVID,' Governor John Bel Edwards said in a Monday news conference, adding there does not appear to be any signs 'that things will flatten.'

The decision by San Francisco and its neighboring counties comes as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (pictured) announced Monday that his would be the second state in the country to issue a statewide mask mandate 

He said he had taken the weekend to look over COVID data with state and health officials, and determined that it was necessary to reinstate the state's indoor mask mandate - even for those who are vaccinated.

The mandate would apply to students in school, Edwards said, and will be enforced for everyone ages 5 and up. 

It will go into effect on Wednesday and will stay in place until at least Sept. 1, but may be extended if necessary.

So far only 37 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated, while 34 percent have received one does. 

'The Delta variant is a game changer, and at this point it's not whether we vaccinate or mask, we have to do both,' Edwards said. 'Our latest numbers confirm that we simply have to do more,' 

In New York City on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio is refusing to bring back the indoor mask mandate, at least for now, and instead is focusing on getting more of the city vaccinated.   

Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday he would not bring back NYC's indoor mask mandate because he wants to focus instead on getting more people vaccinated 

New York City Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday urged NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local leaders to adopt the CDC's new mask guidance because he no longer has the authority to instate a mask mandate

Vaccinated people are far less likely to become ill with or die from COVID-19 than unvaccinated people are, but half of the country remains unvaccinated and the variant is three times as contagious as previous strains. 

There is now a debate over whether or not local governments should adopt it the mask advice because it would force vaccinated people to adopt restrictions for the benefit of those who choose not to get the shot. 

Republican governors are standing against it, while Democratic leaders are rushing to enforce it.  

On Monday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who issued some of the strictest COVID rules last year before being stripped of his powers in anger over how his administration tallied nursing home deaths, urged de Blasio to make it a law. 

Right now, masks are not required indoors in New York City unless the business enforces it as a rule. People are pictured dining at a restaurant on the Upper West Side recently 

This CDC map shows how Delta is spreading across the country. Southern states and states on the West Coast are seeing the highest number of cases

'I don't have any legal authority to mandate. The best I can do is strongly recommend that they do that,' he said. 

But de Blasio - who took repeated insults from Cuomo during the pandemic about his lack of authority - is standing firm. 

At his own press conference 30 minutes later, he said:  'The overwhelming strategic thrust is vaccination.

'We think the right mix is to heavily focus on vaccination and continue to climb that leader and also give a very clear message, strongly recommending mask usage.  

'Mask wearing is not a substitute for vaccination,' he said.  

In order for Cuomo to create a mask mandate, he'd have to make it a law and he can't do that now without the approval of the state legislature, which stripped him of his powers in March because of his handling of nursing home COVID deaths. 

This map shows how hospitals are faring across the country. Dark blue shaded areas have the lowest number of available beds and those being hospitalized are mostly unvaccinated

He was forced to acknowledge the change at his press conference on Monday.   

'We had extensive authority under the previous law that overrode local governments. 

'That law has lapsed. So now, the law is as set by the local government and we are just recommending.  

'If we get to a situation where local governments don't step up, then you'd need the state to pass a law.

It comes amid research that shows while vaccinated people are far less likely to become gravely ill with COVID-19, they still can contract and transmit it. 

With half of the country still unvaccinated, it is causing a spike in hospitalizations and deaths in some parts of the country where vaccination rates are low.

The trend is the same in New York City. Cases are on the rise thanks to Delta but deaths and hospitalizations are low 

In Austin, Texas, there are now just 7 ICU beds left across the city because others have been filled by unvaccinated COVID patients. 

New York City has not, however, seen an uptick in hospitalizations or deaths, despite cases being on the rise in Delta variant cases. 

New York state and city workers have until Labor Day to get vaccinated or they face rigorous testing requirements. 

The same rule has been adopted by other states. 

In New York City, de Blasio is also offering $100 to people who get their first shot at a city-run site. 

Florida has broken its record for COVID hospitalizations with more than 10,200 hospitalized with the virus. 

On Monday, the Director of the National Institute for Health said on Monday masks may be necessary to avoid future lockdowns. 

'We want to avoid lockdowns at all costs, but that means we’re going to have to do some other things that won’t necessarily be welcomed by people,' Dr. Francis Collins told Good Morning America.   

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