Bay Area doctors say mask recommendations, not mandates, could return given recent COVID case rate

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Saturday, April 16, 2022
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Considering the Bay Area's COVID case rate, local doctors explain why mask recommendations, but not mandates, could be made.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It will be a busy weekend with people across the Bay Area celebrating Easter and Passover. For many, it will be the first time gathering without restrictions in years.

But, doctors want to remind everyone COVID-19 is still a dangerous threat.

"The recommendations really haven't changed," ABC7 News Special Corresponded Dr. Alok Patel said. "If you're gathering with people this weekend, just like any other gathering, you want to make sure that people around you are not symptomatic, people haven't had recent exposures and especially find out if everyone around you has been vaccinated because that is the best way to prevent the transmission."

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Transmission has seen a recent uptick across the country and Bay Area numbers are not immune.

Our ABC7 COVID-19 tracker shows the Bay Area seven-day rolling average is 1,171.5 new daily cases according to the latest state data.

That number is up from around 500 new cases last month.

But, the number experts want us to focus on is hospitalizations.

"We, throughout all of California and in the Bay Area, are in the green zone of the community level of COVID-19 by the CDC, meaning we are in a very good place with low severe disease and low hospitalizations," UCSF Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Monica Gandhi said.

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The CDC changed their metrics in February, defining the community level of COVID based on number of hospitalizations.

Going back to our ABC7 stats, the number of patients in hospitals is down from last month.

"It used to be that cases and hospitalizations would mirror each other," Dr. Gandhi said. "Now, essentially with high levels of immunity with vaccination and natural immunity, our hospitalizations are staying low even with increased cases across the United States."

Those rising cases have prompted some cities to bring back mask mandates, but should we?

Our experts say local health leaders should recommend good fit and filtered masks as needed, but mandates should remain off the table as long as hospitalizations stay low.

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"It's entirely possible that we are going to see new recommendations come out in the next couple weeks if cases of BA.2 continue to rise," Dr. Patel said. "But, I really don't see a mandate come back into place in hospitalizations or severe cases which we aren't right now."

With that said, Dr. Patel says hospitalizations have followed case numbers rising in the past.

So be cautious, COVID-19 is still with us this holiday weekend.