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Health Experts, Parents, Teachers Call for Lifting Mask Mandates Post-Omicron

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- With omicron cases starting to decline in many parts of the state, there's a push to ease COVID restrictions although it's still unclear whether health officials will lift mask mandates Feb. 15.

Some leading health experts and doctors on the front lines of this two-year-old COVID battle are hoping they'll go a step farther.

"I think the public is scared because of a lot of our messaging," said UCSF director of COVID response Dr. Jeanne Noble.

Calls to lift mandates are growing louder.

In San Rafael, protesters rallied Sunday against vaccine requirements and mask mandates.

"The fact that these mandates and emergency orders have not already been lifted is a crime," said Novato resident Tief Gibbs.

State laws don't allow local counties to loosen indoor-masking mandates on public transportation, in restaurants or in schools.

"The research shows that it's the number one factor that can assist us," said Marin County schools superintendent Dr. Mary Jane Burke. "We're not there quite yet but it's my, you know, sense that it is coming sooner than later."

"Masking needs to come off at some point in and we need to have goal posts. We need an end game," Dr. Noble said. "I see kids in distress and kids who are not doing well. It's not because of COVID. It's because of our COVID policy."

Noble and other doctors are spearheading a new petition demanding state officials lift all remaining restrictions in public schools after the omicon surge.

"I do think that this is a role for public health officials. They really need to get out there with firm messages that things have changed and it is time to move on," said Noble.

"Even in areas where cases are starting to come down, in places that can, we are still recommending public indoor masking. Again, cases are still well higher than the threshold to start thinking about taking off some of those measures," said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

Supporters of the "Post-Omicron Pivot for California Public Schools" are quickly approaching 10,000 signatures, demanding school children be allowed to unmask outdoors immediately and make it optional indoors by mid-February.

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