More California Counties Urge Masks Indoors as Delta Variant Spreads

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As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread, several California counties are urging people to mask up indoors.

Sacramento County on Thursday announced its public health officer strongly recommends residents wear mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

"The drastic increase in cases is concerning – as is the number of people choosing not to get vaccinated,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Olivia Kasirye said in a statement. "Our best protection against COVID-19 continues to be the vaccine. We urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves, and their family and friends."

Hours later in Southern California, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said it will once again require everyone to wear masks in indoor public settings.

Back in Northern California, the health officer in Yolo County, which includes portions of greater Sacramento, is also recommending county residents wear masks inside because of the prevalence of the delta variant and rising COVID-19 cases.

Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson explained that the delta variant made up 76% of the positive samples collected from the end of June to the beginning of July. As a result, Sisson strongly recommends that fully vaccinated people, along with those who are 65 and older or immunocompromised, wear masks in indoor public areas as a "precautionary measure."

So far, no Bay Area counties have issued these types of recommendations.

Alameda County late Thursday said while vaccination continues to be the best protection against severe COVID-19 infection, the county is "considering recommending masking indoors for everyone because it is a powerful tool that can help contain this more transmissible virus."

"I think what's happening is kind of a pause, seeing what's happening in terms of hospital resources and probably resetting the clock," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF.

Chin-Hong stresses the Bay Area's vaccination rate is much higher than it is in Los Angeles. San Francisco, for example, has 76% of eligible people fully vaccinated. In Alameda County, it is 70% of eligible residents fully vaccinated.

"Hopefully that force field will keep the numbers relatively low even though the percentage increase is going to look very dramatic and most importantly keep hospitalizations and deaths low," Chin-Hong said.

NBC Bay Area reached out to a handful of Bay Area health departments and is waiting to hear back on if they plan to reinstate indoor mask requirements.

"Even though it's going to be a psychological bummer, I know, so in short I think it will probably come here," Chin-Hong said.

Meanwhile, health officials in Sonoma County are working to learn more about a COVID-19 outbreak at a homeless shelter.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, nine of the 59 people affected have been hospitalized. Six of those nine were vaccinated.

It's unclear if the delta variant is at play in the outbreak.

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