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UPDATE: Santa Clara County Health Officer Criticized for Keeping Indoor Mask Mandate

SAN JOSE (KPIX) -- Santa Clara County officially became an island Wednesday -- the lone Bay Area County refusing to lift its indoor mask mandate.

Whether you think the county's Public Health Officer Dr. Sara is leading on the issue -- taking an unpopular but necessary precaution -- or woefully behind her colleagues depends on who you ask.

"We're taking a different course in Santa Clara County," Cody told reporters a week earlier. She said it was premature to stop wearing masks indoors with the number of new infections still high and hospitals running out of ICU beds.

The decision put Dr. Cody -- as it often has during the pandemic -- at odds with the public she's trying to protect.

"I'm vaccinated. I'm boosted. So why should I have to be masked up? I've done my part to be cautious. I've done my part to create the herd immunity that everybody was talking about," said former San Jose City Councilman and frequent critic Johnny Khamis.

The Public Health Department created a three-prong test to determine when it's safe to life the mask requirement.

The first criteria was high vaccination rates, which the county has already achieved. Currently, 89.8% of eligible residents in Santa Clara County have been vaccinated.

Second, Dr. Cody says the seven-day average of new infections needed to drop below 550. By Wednesday, it still had a substantial way to go, hovering at 943.

The third and perhaps most controversial metric was status of hospitals countywide. Dr. Cody says she wants to insure county hospitals are not overwhelmed by an influx of COVID-19 patients. She is monitoring the number of hospitalizations and available ICU beds but admits it comes down to a judgement call.

"I feel like it's a real inconvenience and it's confusing for people," says Eric Thomas outside a Target store in North San Jose.

The county's public health officials said they couldn't predict exactly when the mask mandate would be lifted, but expected to ease restrictions sometime in the next two to three weeks.

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