Debate Over Outdoor Mask Mandate Increases as More People Get Vaccinated

As more Americans get vaccinated, questions are growing about whether masks are still needed or necessary while outdoors

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Masking up on the go. For months, California and other states have required everyone to wear a mask if you’re within a certain range of others.

That’s whether you’re inside or outside. But with a growing pool of vaccinated people, the growing evidence is that the virus is far less transmissible outside.

Some people are saying its time to lift the outdoor mask mandate in California. While others say why even risk it?

“There is always that chance that’s the way I look at it the more you protect yourself the more likely you’re going to be safe,” said Concord resident Blaine Rodgers.

“If I don’t want to wear my mask, I’m not wearing my mask now,” said Richmond resident Michael Williams.

Dr. George Rutherford, a professor of Epidemiology at UCSF said it's important to understand the pandemic isn't over.

“We have a statewide mandate to wear masks when we’re outdoors to decrease disease transmission,” he said. “We need to be adherent to that I think somewhere down the line after June 15 this can be revisited.”

June 15 is when California aims to fully reopen with vaccinations still being encouraged and mandating masks. Rutherford added it’s important to be cognizant of the risk and pointed to 2,500 new cases in California on Wednesday.

“Until we get more people vaccinated and a lot more people vaccinated, we need to be following what the mandates are,” he said.

Recent statistics showed about 34 % of people are fully vaccinated statewide.

Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at UCSF said the recent statistics means it’s time to think about making changes.

“I think now is the right time to re-evaluate lifting the outdoor mask mandate in California,” she said. Gandhi added there are several reasons she’s willing to consider relaxing the mandate.

“The most compelling is that there is lots and lots of data at this point and a lot of it came out recently about how low the risk of outdoor transmission is,” she said. “We have the lowest cases in the nation, we have rapid vaccination and it actually engenders trust in public health officials.”

Gandhi added however, that there is a limit. For example, she still thinks people should be masked in crowded places like a rally where people may be yelling.

For now, the debate continues with both sides hoping their argument will sway the state.

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