By Devin Fehely

SANTA CRUZ (KPIX 5) – Santa Cruz County public health officials have reversed themselves and are once again requiring people to mask up indoors as cases rise ahead of the holidays.

“What it looks like to the public is that we’re going back and forth and can’t make up our minds. What it really is science evolving as we speak,” says Dr. David Ghilarducci, the county’s Deputy Health Officer.

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Santa Cruz County lifted its mask mandate on September 29 as more and more people were getting vaccinated and case numbers were dropping.

“I am looking forward to the day I don’t need to wear a mask,” says Marta Hansen as she walked through downtown Santa Cruz’s shopping district.

Hansen, however, doesn’t think that day has arrived and said she was relieved to hear mask mandates were returning after an eight week hiatus. She told KPIX 5 that she believes public health officials ease restrictions too quickly.

“I finally just had to come to grips with what was right for me and I just kept the mask on. And just said whatever else other people are doing, that’s their choice,” she said.

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Public health officials said new cases of the coronavirus have spiked in the county, shooting up 29% in just the past two weeks.

Many shoppers said they understand that masks are protective but had been hopeful that we’d finally reached a point in the pandemic when they would not be needed.

“We get close and it’s ‘No more masks now.’ It’s like we’re readjusting to life two years ago — before the pandemic. And then we go back to the masks and it’s like ‘What happened?'” said Adam Afaneh.

Public health officials defended the decision to drop masks and say their guidance has to be tailored to the conditions of the moment.

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“Having a kind of endless mask mandate in the face of low cases and rapidly dropping cases, I think, may actually undermine credibility. More so than having to go on again and off again,” Ghilarducci said.