Masks are no longer required in most indoor settings in Santa Clara County as of Wednesday, as the county transitions to a recommendation, according to the county's Public Health chief.
Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody made the announcement Tuesday but clarified that her office still is recommending masks in certain indoor settings because there are people still at risk and because long COVID is a concern.
Last week, the county reached for the first time the metric of 550 or fewer cases per day for a full week. Before that, the county already had hit the targets for low and stable hospitalization numbers and an 80% or higher vaccination rate.
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SAP Center in San Jose was the venue for a Justin Bieber concert Wednesday night, and people still were required to show proof of vaccination to enter. But they were able to mingle and sing along with thousands of other concert goers without wearing a mask.
For some, the end of the mask mandate represents a turning point in the pandemic.
Kevin and Heidi Morris walked into a Starbucks without a mask for the first time in almost two years.
"I have mask fatigue," Kevin said. "I've been wearing it for two years, so I'm ready to go maskless."
Other Santa Clara County residents like Cameron Cetani say it's going to take some time to adjust.
"A couple of years wearing it...I feel naked without it," he said.
For others, it's just simply not the right time to drop the mask.
"The numbers don’t jive for me yet," said Judy Brown from Monte Sereno. "There’s too many sick people, and I work in a hospital. I’m just not convinced it’s the right move to make yet ."
Regardless of what counties do, the state will continue requiring masking in K-12 schools and child care facilities until March 12, on public transit, at health care settings, in shelters and in jails.
UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong has said people should keep a mask handy in case they find themselves in a risky situation.
"I think the risk is definitively still there," he said. "We're not quite where we were even Thanksgiving time and definitely not where we were at the time of first California reopening on June 15, 2021, which means that even though I'm a boosted person, I’m still going to be very careful in a crowded indoor setting and wear my mask."