'Test case': UCSF doctors eyeing Santa Cruz after county drops indoor mask mandate

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Santa Cruz County announced Wednesday it is dropping its indoor mask mandate effective immediately.

That comes as a new CDC forecast model shows that COVID hospitalizations are likely to drop by nearly half in the next two weeks. And that same model shows cases and deaths will continue to decline over the next four weeks.

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Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says that these predictions could very well be accurate if we don't see another variant like Delta and if authorizations are granted for kids to get the vaccine.

UCSF doctors say Bay Area counties could watch the COVID-19 case trends in Santa Cruz now, to see how dropping the mandate plays out.

"Someone had to be the first to do it," said Dr. Maria Raven, UCSF's Chief of Emergency Medicine. "The good news about another area is that then we can see what happens in that area, so it is always nice before we make a move to base it off of a little data."

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The California Dept. of Public Health says masking outdoors is currently recommended in high-risk settings when in packed crowds or concerts.



Santa Cruz county say they followed the CDC rate of transmission to make this decision.

According to the CDC they are now in the yellow "moderate" tier when it comes to transmission. Dr. Raven thinks for the vaccinated, asymptomatic person they might not need a mask.

"Masks are great, and very helpful for much of this pandemic," she said. "Is it doing a lot of good for vaccinated people who have good antibody response and are healthy to mask indoors if they are asymptomatic? It is probably not doing much to be honest."

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However, other doctors still think keeping the mandate in is the safer option.

"Certainly Santa Cruz can be a test case," said Dr. George Rutherford at UCSF. "In my opinion, it is still too early to lift the mandate, but we have a strong vaccination rate in the Bay Area."

Vaccines, he says, are the best option going forward for helping the mandates get lifted.

"If we can shrink the pool of people who are susceptible, that is that fewer people who the virus can be transmitted to," he said. "We can have a safe winter, but we need everyone to get vaccinated."



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