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Health officials speak about new mask mandate

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Posted at 11:34 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-17 02:47:31-05

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — One day into the California indoor mask mandate and certain rules are causing more questions than providing answers.

As the Associated Press reports, San Francisco is exempt from requiring the fully vaccinated to wear a mask indoors at gyms and at work.

23ABC reached out to the California Department of Public Health about they provided a statement, telling in part:

Every county must either have in place their own indoor masking requirement regardless of vaccination status or follow the state's updated guidance that took effect yesterday.

Some local public health departments already had indoor masking requirements in place, and those policies remain in place.

As a medical official in town tells 23ABC, being fully vaccinated may not be enough of shield from omicron.

“It does not make a lot of sense from a scientific perspective” said, Dr. Glenn Goldis Chief Medical Officer Kern Medical.

Goldis spoke on AP’s latest report–that San Francisco will have certain exemptions to California’s new indoor mask mandate.

The agency said city officials there report 90% of the eligible population has had at least one dose of the vaccine. Meanwhile Kern County Public Health reports that of the area’s eligible population 57.6% have at least one dose. Goldis said one or even two doses may not be enough to combat variants like delta and now omicron.

“It essentially states that the ability for you to fight off omicron, that the primary series is just not adequate. And so, the likelihood of you getting sick remains almost the same. As if you hadn’t been vaccinated, when it comes to this particular variant, that’s the concern. That’s why when you get boosted, it makes all the difference,”said Goldis.

Such a difference that Chief Medical Officer of Mercy Hospitals Bakersfield, Hemmal Kothary expects to see a rise in hospitalizations in the area. Plus, in California, if not all state mandates are created equal he said it can cause a divide.

"You'll get people saying, well I’m vaccinated in my city, why do I have to wear a mask if San Francisco doesn't and I think when you start making exceptions for one city, I think it puts more of a doubt in people's minds that there's something funny going on,” said Kothary.

Meanwhile, Cal Osha rolled out an extension of COVID-19 regulations in the workplace. The update requires employees vaccinated or not be sent home to quarantine if they test positive for COVID-19 even if they’re asymptomatic.

Kothary said with vaccine mandates already depleting their nursing staff they’re going to need all hands-on deck especially with an expected winter surge in cases.

“If you’re not vaccinated at all, and you wear an N95 mask, which we require, chances of transmission are very slim. If you’re vaccinated and you wear a regular mask, the chances are also very slim,” said Kothary.

He expects there to be quote “nuance” with this rule as more information is revealed about omicron and it will be necessary.

“I think what will end up happening, where the California Department of Public Health say ‘hey if you have the virus but you’re asymptomatic, you can come to work and wear a mask. I think something similar is going to come out where they say ‘hey if you’ve been vaccinated and test positive, and are asymptomatic you can still wear a mask and come to work,” said Kothary.

Kothary pointed out that this study on omicron from mass general that both he and Goldis referred is fairly new and not peer reviewed.