San Jose employees must continue wearing masks in city facilities until July 1, with positive COVID-19 infections increasing around Santa Clara County.
The city announced the mandate during the first week of May when new variants of the coronavirus were identified and infections began ticking up. Spokesperson Carolina Camarena said the city extended the order again in light of the consistent rise in recorded infections.
According to the county’s COVID-19 database, as of Wednesday the seven day average of new infections is at 1,078 countywide, a large increase compared to the low reported number of 193 in early April. About 86% of residents are fully vaccinated and about 70% of those eligible for boosters have had at least one additional dose. The highest number of infections have been recorded among people aged 19 and younger.
“We will continue to monitor case rates within Santa Clara County and will reassess if needed,” Camarena told San José Spotlight.
A Santa Clara County Public Health spokesperson said the county is aligned with state guidance requiring masks inside all county buildings and facilities. The county lifted its indoor mask mandate for residents in March when infections reached a low point. The county has had some of the most stringent COVID rules in the Bay Area throughout the pandemic.
George Rutherford, a professor of epidemiology at UC San Francisco, told San José Spotlight he thinks city and county decisions to continue enforcing masks are reasonable.
“If you’re an employer and you want to protect your employees and not have massive absenteeism, then masks are an important thing,” he said.
Rutherford said new variants of the virus have been in the state for several weeks. Although not much has been published from studies of the variants in South Africa, medical experts are finding the waves of infection are similar to ones seen earlier in the spring.
“There’s nothing I’m aware of that would suggest (the new variants are) more severe,” he said.
Following a long Memorial Day holiday weekend, Rutherford said he thinks people may get too confident if they were already infected over the winter.
“The natural protection (from COVID-19) wanes after about four months,” he said. “If you were infected in December, don’t count your chickens.”
Santa Clara County Public Health advises all residents to get vaccinated and boosted if eligible, and follow recommendations to mask up in indoor public settings and businesses to avoid infections.
Medical experts are sounding the alarm that another wave of infections is hitting the Bay Area and increasing hospitalization rates, although death rates are lower, according to recent news reports.
Rutherford said vaccines are continuing to show evidence of working well to protect against the BA.2 variant.
“We’re at a higher level of transmission than we were last year, but we’re also at lower numbers of hospitalizations,” he said. “I think we’re getting to a state where we’re seeing increasingly more transmissible viruses, but luckily they are less severe than they have been in the past.”
San Jose spokesperson Demetria Machado said a decision to either rescind or extend the city’s mask mandate will be considered again by July 1.
“San Jose’s main priorities continue to be the health and safety of our employees and the community, with the ability to maintain essential services to our residents,” Machado said.
Contact Natalie Hanson at [email protected] or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.