San Diego County Will Not Reinstate Mask Mandates As COVID-19 Cases Surge
While some counties in the state are requiring masks indoors regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status, San Diego County public health officials announced Monday they will continue to follow state guidelines, which require indoor masking for unvaccinated people and masking of everyone in certain settings.
"COVID-19 is now the pandemic of the unvaccinated," said Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer. "Get vaccinated now, especially since cases and hospitalizations have been going up."
The county statement comes following an announcement Monday by Gov. Gavin Newsom requiring all state employees and all workers at hospitals and health care facilities across California to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Those who are unable or refuse to do so will have to be tested at least once a week.
The vaccine-verification program for the state's roughly 246,000 employees and for all health-care workers will be implemented over the coming weeks, with compliance expected by Aug. 23. It will apply to all health-care settings across the state — public and private.
The policy falls short of a vaccine "mandate," offering employees the option of undergoing regular COVID testing instead of providing proof of vaccination. Those workers will be required to undergo testing at least once a week, possibly even twice a week.
The state, however, still has not imposed a renewed mandate for everyone to wear masks indoors.
County health officials said San Diegans who feel uncomfortable around others should wear a mask if they want to.
"Even though I am fully vaccinated, I still wear a mask in public," said Dr. Eric McDonald, county chief medical officer. "People should take whatever precautions they want to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19, especially if they live with someone who is not able to get vaccinated or is immunocompromised."
According to state officials, there were nearly 3,000 people hospitalized due to COVID as of Monday, up from about 900 on May 15. The average daily rate of new cases is now at 9.6 per 100,000 people, up from 1.9 per 100,000 on May 15.
State officials noted that the daily infection rate among unvaccinated residents is believed to be more than 14 per 100,000, compared to about 2 per 100,000 among the vaccinated population. That equates to unvaccinated residents being infected at roughly seven times the rate of vaccinated people.
Locally, 98% percent of hospitalizations in the last 30 days are in people who are not vaccinated or have not completed the full series of the two- dose vaccine. Around 150,000 San Diegans are only partially vaccinated and overdue for their second shot.
"One dose of the vaccine does not give you enough immunity to prevent getting COVID-19, especially the Delta variant," Wooten said. "Getting both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine gives you the best protection against all COVID-19 variants that are currently circulating."
Another 2,044 COVID-19 cases and 55 hospitalizations were reported from Friday to Sunday in the county. The number of community outbreaks is now at 27 after 12 more were confirmed over the past three days.
To increase access to COVID-19 vaccines, the county is now operating the Great Eight, a collection of geographically distributed no-cost vaccination sites that allow people to choose any one of the three vaccines available in the United States, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. For a list of locations and more information, visit coronavirus-sd.com/vaccine.