WALNUT CREEK (KPIX) — Bay Area county health officials on Wednesday confirmed that they will be making a major announcement regarding mask mandates on Thursday.
Health officials indicated the Thursday announcement would outline what the criteria for lifting current COVID-19 mask mandates would be, marking an initial step towards the lifting of those mandates.
“I think it is the right time to start thinking about relaxing the mask mandates. The question to me is not if the mask mandates are going to be relaxed — but when?” said UCSF infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin Hong.
KPIX spoke to residents in Walnut Creek to get their reactions to the potential lifting of some masking requirements.
Contra Costa County is one of seven Bay Area counties weighing the criteria that would be met to lift mask mandates. Those counties — which also include Alameda, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties as well as Berkeley — collectively adopted a renewed mask mandate for all indoor activities in early August due to the rising number of COVID cases associated with the delta variant.
Dr. Ori Tzvieli, the medical director of the county health department, told the county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that coordinated discussions regarding the criteria was underway..
“We are working in coordination with other counties in the region who have indoor masking orders to establish criteria for these counties to ease some of these restrictions. We’re expecting to announce something with details at the end of this week,” he said.
But for Quinn Lee, who works in Walnut Creek, it feels a little too soon.
“It’s effective and I think we should keep the momentum so we can really get out of this,” she said.
“If the CDC and the county health departments agree that that’s the safest for people. I think we need to follow the science,” said Lafayette resident Ed Szaay.
Health officials remain concerned about the upcoming holidays, saying the mixing of vaccinated with unvaccinated minus masks could spell trouble.
“I think it’s better to be safe and prolong it for a little bit as opposed to lifting then enforcing masks,” said Lee.
“I will probably still wear the mask. Not just for myself, but for other people, because I want to make sure that they’re comfortable,” added Szaay.
Santa Cruz County recently dropped it’s indoor mask mandate because it was seeing lower COVID numbers. Some health experts recommend waiting to see what happens there first before making any decisions.
In downtown Santa Cruz, masks were still common, as were signs in many storefronts reminding customers to wear one.
“I’m still wearing it because the last couple of times when people would stop wearing it, the cases would spike back up,” said Edgar Bernal.
Even if countywide mandates are lifted, individual businesses will still have the option of enforcing their own mask requirements for employees and customers.
“I still wear it because the restaurants require it. I don’t like wearing it myself,” says Marlen Guzman.
The Bay Area as a whole has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
Devin Fehely contributed to this story.