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New Los Angeles Mask Mandate Boosts Concerns Over Rise of COVID Cases in Bay Area

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- One month to the day after Gov. Gavin Newsom celebrated the state's progress in the fight against COVID-19 and reopened California, health leaders in Los Angeles County announced an indoor mask mandate effective this Saturday.

"If there was ever a wake-up call it's right now," said University of California San Francisco Prof. of Medicine and infectious disease specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. "I think what people didn't expect, myself included, was the rapid dominance of Delta."

Cases in the Bay Area are also increasing but Dr. Chin-Hong said the number of deaths appears to be stable. The difference, he added, between L.A. and the Bay Area is the significantly higher vaccination rate in the north.

Still, when asked whether he thinks the Bay Area may also be headed in the direction of another mask mandate he said, "I would say I'm kind of in the middle of whether or not we'd see that mandate."

He said what's likely to happen are recommendations or mandates by individual counties.

"The unvaccinated people in this state and in this country are driving this pandemic right now and that is the choice that people are making so that's why we need to mask, especially indoors," said Stanford University prof. of global health and infectious disease expert Dr. Yvonne Maldonado.

There remains a push to get the vaccine into unvaccinated populations despite the closure of mass vaccination sites in the Bay Area.

In Santa Clara County, the public health department staged a "night clinic" or mobile clinic at San Pedro Square amid downtown San Jose's bars and restaurants from 4 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday. Another clinic is scheduled for downtown Campbell Friday between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. near Recycle Bookstore West.

Among the most hesitant to receive a vaccination are those between age 18 and 25, according to a UCSF study released this week.

Three hours into the downtown San Jose night clinic Thursday only a dozen had been vaccinated, including Jose Villa and his wife.

Villa said he and his wife were exploring the area after moving to San Jose last week when they stumbled on the clinic.

"This is my first dose," Villa said. "I was worried about myself and my family, especially since we have a kid but now I feel a little bit more protected."

The state's Department of Public Health announced this week that California's 7-day positivity rate is now at 3 percent. This time last month, however, it stood at 0.8 percent.

Dr. Chin-Hong said that, considering how transmissible the Delta variant is proving to be, cases in the Bay Area are relatively low compared to other parts of the country that are seeing positivity rates in the double digits.

"What I'm concerned about is -- if this variant starts to really spread -- that we'll have an even more transmissible variant come along down the pike and we really need to avoid that," Dr. Maldonado said. "The vaccines are safe. The vaccines work."

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