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Bay Area health official urges mask-wearing as COVID cases climb

Bay Area health official urges mask-wearing as COVID cases climb
Bay Area health official urges mask-wearing as COVID cases climb 02:11

BERKELEY (KPIX) -- COVID cases continue to rise in California and a doctor from UC Berkeley School of Public Health feels the recommendation to wear masks indoors may not be enough to stop the spread.

Epidemiologists say we are now dealing with the BA.2 subvariant variant of the highly contagious omicron variant.

There is evidence this faster-spreading subvariant can better evade immunity.

"What's really driving this or at least the big driver is the fact that these new subvariants of omicron are able to transmit much better," said Dr. John Swartzberg with the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

 The CDC reports coronavirus cases have jumped 60 percent in the past two weeks and the American Academy of Pediatrics says children now represent 18 percent of the cases nationally.

Here in the Bay Area, school districts such as San Francisco Unified last week saw the highest numbers since the height of the omicron surge in January.

"Right now things are going in the wrong direction. We're seeing the virus every week after week go up that ladder and we've got to stop that progression because we are now seeing more people wind up in the hospital," Dr. Swartzberg said.

He is concerned that, once hospitalizations start to rise, so will the number of deaths.

"If what we're doing is not working, we have to consider doing more. I hate to say that because nobody wants to be told what to do but, if things continue the direction they're going, then we're going to have to make a change," Dr. Swartzberg added.

He says that, to slow and reverse the course of this surge, it's important to be vaccinated, boosted and to wear masks indoors. At present, face coverings are recommended but are still optional in the Bay Area.

"If I'm going to be with a lot of people I don't know who's coming and going, I will wear a mask," said Robyn Torres from Marin County.

"Everyone has different opinions on a mask mandate but for me personally -- especially for indoors -- I chose to wear a mask," said Lulu, who lives in the East Bay.

"If it's going up, that's the only way to protect, otherwise it's going to be worse. Even worse,"  said Tulu Gurung from San Francisco.


The Contra Costa Community College District announced Monday that it will keep indoor mask requirements in place through at least the summer semester as COVID-19 cases rise across the county.

District officials said in a statement that they will determine whether to lift indoor mask requirements for the fall 2022 semester.

The district -- which includes Contra Costa College in San Pablo, Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, Los Medanos College in Pittsburg and educational facilities in Brentwood and San Ramon -- will also continue requiring students and employees to have completed their initial vaccine series.

COVID cases and hospitalizations have increased in Contra Costa County and across the state in recent weeks.

"We can't wait to see the smiling faces of our students in the classroom but we must do our part to minimize the spread of the omicron variants and sub-variants by continuing to require this best practice to protect against the virus," district Interim Chancellor Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said in a statement.

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