As XE variant emerges in the Bay Area, expert says 1 thing could bring back mask mandates

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In June 2020, the city of San Jose mandated mask wearing at all indoor locations as we learned to cope with the fast spreading coronavirus.

Now nearly two years later, the city council made the decision to remove the mandate.

We will now be able to see smiles in the community whether you are enjoying an event at the SAP Center or out and about downtown.

The city is following suit with the state and county and removing their indoor mask mandate for most settings effective immediately.

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"Compared to January 2022 when there was a significant rise in COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant, COVID-19 hospitalizations remain relatively low and stable," City of San Jose COVID-19 Recovery public information officer Demetria Machado said. "So, at this time the city feels it's appropriate to rescind the policy."

Santa Clara County and San Jose once had some of the most strict restrictions. Now, hospitalizations are low, the seven-day case average in the county sits around 160 new cases and San Jose remains the most highly vaccinated large city in the U.S.

But according to the county's wastewater COVID numbers, San Jose's detection of COVID is shooting up with the BA.2 variant with more transmissible XE variant emerging. The city says changes to the mandates are always possible.

"Although we're a highly vaccinated city, we need to remain vigilant and flexible if changes need to be made in the future," Machado said.

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Dr. Chin-Hong says UCSF is seeing an increase in influenza and common cold cases as well as complaints of allergies, as less people are wearing masks.



UCSF's Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says the variants and people travelling have likely caused the increase of COVID in the wastewater.

But as long as hospitalizations remain low in San Jose and throughout the Bay Area, he doesn't anticipate mask mandates to go backwards for now.

"We may see an increase in cases in the community, but probably not so much of a hit on the hospital side," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "I think that will make people feel a lot more reassured. I predict that we will stay in tact for the next BA.2, XE or anything for the time being."

Ultimately, the mandates come down to local jurisdictions and Dr. Chin-Hong says the variants may make leaders reconsider options as they see fit.

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