Doctors support return of masking restrictions amid signs of new COVID surge

Six of the nine Bay Area counties are reporting substantial or high levels of COVID-19 community transmission, CDC says

Stephanie Sierra Image
Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Is another COVID wave hitting Bay Area? Doctors say 'risk is high'
Is another wave of coronavirus hitting the Bay Area? Here's why doctors say the risk of a potential surge in cases is high.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Six of the nine Bay Area counties are reporting substantial or high levels of COVID-19 community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Does this mean another COVID wave is coming? This time BA.2?

Doctors say it's very possible, but will likely be different.

"I think the risk of ongoing infections and potentially a surge is high," said Stanford Infectious Disease Physician, Dr. Abraar Karan. "That may still look different than previous surges, in the sense it doesn't guarantee we will see an increase in hospitalizations."

Both hospitalizations and deaths have been trending down across the Bay Area since early February. Meanwhile, case counts are increasing modestly. According to state data, the rolling average of new daily COVID cases in the Bay Area jumped from 651 on April 2 to 786 on April 4.

UCSF's Dr. George Rutherford says the highly-infectious BA.2 variant may continue to slow down our progress.

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"We may see some slowing of the decline, we may see some little blips that they're seeing in the East right now," Rutherford said. "But, I don't think we're going to see any huge big what was seen in the UK."

Rutherford says the BA.2 variant now accounts for nearly 80 percent of new cases across the U.S.

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While these minor spikes may slow us down, doctors say it won't be enough to divert the Bay Area completely off track. That's assuming we don't get another dangerous COVID variant added to the mix.

"Will there be a new variant that comes out of left-field like delta did? Or like omicron did?" Rutherford said. "That's the real question."

Will masking restrictions come back? Doctors say it's 'very possible'

Dr. Karan says the decision may happen even sooner than we think.

"We're already seeing private institutions re-instate masking," Karan said. "The issue if you delay this... by the time you reinstate it, you will be so far behind and the main benefit of prevention will be missed."

Dr. Mike Wasserman, who sat on the state's Vaccine Advisory Committee, agrees.

"My friends and colleagues who are physicians and scientists are still wearing their masks when they're indoors around people they don't know," said Wasserman. "If they're having get-togethers, they're doing testing the day of... that's how we're going to reduce the impact of incoming waves."

Wasserman says what happened in Washington DC at the Gridiron dinner --- where dozens of high-profile politicians and journalists tested positive for COVID-19 --- is a reminder what can't just return to normal without precautions.

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"One of the reasons we're seeing this uptick is the political response of 'ok, you don't have to wear a mask, you don't have to test' yes you're going to see outbreaks and waves," said Wasserman.

Nationally, 26 states are reporting at least a 10 percent increase in new COVID cases over the past week, according to CDC data.