DUBLIN (KPIX 5) – Health officials in three Bay Area counties have eased mask rules indoors on Monday. Meanwhile, a UCSF health expert said the pandemic is entering a new phase.

As of Monday in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, masks will be optional in certain places where everyone can prove they are fully vaccinated, such as in offices and gyms. Meanwhile, Marin County has gone further, easing requirements for the vaccinated in most indoor spaces, including restaurants and retail establishments.

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Individual businesses continue to have the right to have their own mask requirement if they choose.

Health officials said the easing of mask rules doesn’t change state and federal orders for the unvaccinated, schools, hospitals or if you are riding public transportation.

Shoppers in the East Bay who talked to KPIX 5 were not ready yet to take off the masks just yet.

One shopper in Dublin said not being with a mask feels “naked.”

“I just feel more comfortable with it on at this point,” she said.

Carrie Williams, who was shopping with her two sons, said, “It’s kind of become a security blanket.”

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Her 10-year-old son told KPIX 5, “Definitely makes me feel safer at school because a lot of people are coughing at school sometimes.”

So, where are we in the endgame in terms of the pandemic? UCSF Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Monica Gandhi said California’s infection rates are so low and vaccination rates so high that life is getting back to so-called normal again.

Gandhi said the virus won’t disappear but it will become endemic. “It’s going to be like part of the background and we will actually go back to normal life,” Gandhi said.

For some, the new rules will be a psychological adjustment. “Because I don’t trust people to be honest about their vaccination status,” said one vaccinated shopper wearing a mask.

“I think I probably won’t take it off right away because I do work in healthcare,” said another person who has to wear a mask for her occupation.

Gandhi said we are all likely to get exposed to the virus at some point.

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“It’s not, unfortunately, going to go away. And that means we’re all likely to see it and get exposed and that will probably increase our immunities,” said Gandhi.

Juliette Goodrich