It’s been five days since Alameda County lifted its most recent mask mandate.
Alameda County health leaders have been watching COVID-19 cases closely. When they surged in June, the county decided to return to an indoor mask mandate.
It was the only Bay Area County to do so. 22 days later, as cases started to decline, the rule was lifted. Now the question is, did it work?
SFGATE analyzed COVID-19 case rates in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Santa Clara County, and San Francisco County over the past two months, showing similar trends between the counties.
NBC Bay Area pulled the state's numbers for the seven-day average of cases per 100,000 people in Alameda County and compared that to neighboring Contra Costa County.
In the graphic below, you will see that the rates look similar, even though only one county required masks.
Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert at UC Berkeley said this snapshot of data doesn’t tell the whole story.
“I don’t think the proper question is does a mask mandate work or not work, it’s how its applied, how its best utilized, and in what circumstances should it be best utilized in,” he said.
Swartzberg told NBC Bay Area Wednesday that he believes Alameda County made a reasonable decision to reinstate its mandate during the COVID wave.
“But frankly, without the other surrounding counties also having the mask mandate, it really diluted the effect that Alameda County’s solo mask mandate would have,” he said.
Among Alameda County fairgoers on Wednesday, there was a range of opinions about how the mask mandate went.
“I think it should continue, personally, for the safety of others,” said Hayward resident Darlene Joyner.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing. Quite frankly, it’s a pain,” said Discovery Bay resident Phil Warner.
Swartzberg said that mask mandates are still an important tool in combatting the pandemic. He noted that if local leaders see a significant increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations down the line, they may enact mask mandates again.
In the meantime, Swartzberg said people shouldn’t be waiting for a mandate.
“There is no question that wearing a good mask, an N95, KN95, properly, that fits you well, will protect you and will protect others,” Swartzberg said.
While there’s no mask mandate anymore in Alameda County, the county still strongly recommends wearing masks indoors. That’s what the state of California is recommending as well.