Keep these masks in public indoor spaces and schools

No, we are not there yet.

For several weeks, Californians have been witnessing a politically fueled national push to lift mask mandates not only in red states but also in blue ones. Perhaps most troubling is the misguided insistence by some to ditch masks in our children’s classrooms, which only exacerbates an already difficult effort to keep schools open.

The debate among public health experts is not about whether to lift indoor mask mandates, but when. The data indicates that, despite the political push, now is the time to be patient – ​​to continue wearing masks in public indoor spaces.

“Every time after a surge, we tend to let go a little too early, so we let ourselves go to a higher case level than before the surge started, and we keep building on that,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. “And I see the same thing happening right now with omicron.”

We have repeatedly seen this premature rush to ease restrictions from California Governor Gavin Newsom, whose lifting of indoor mask mandates for those vaccinated in public spaces takes effect today. Fortunately, some local jurisdictions, such as Santa Clara County, where health officials exercise reasonable caution, are keeping mask mandates in place for everyone.

Despite political pressure, data shows the rush to ditch masks is premature. Omicron California hospitalization rates are still 17% higher than at the height of the delta era. The deaths are 37% bigger.

As California sees a sharp drop in the number of COVID cases from the unprecedented omicron peak last month’s 735,000 cases in just one week, the latest weekly tallies are still 2½ times higher than during the delta surge and are on par with the peak of last winter’s onslaught.

The current number of cases is undoubtedly undercounted due to the surge in unreported home testing. Nevertheless, the trendline is pointing in the right direction. But we have a long way to go before we have to let go.

And there is no guarantee that the downward trend will continue. As an example, consider the capping of cases in South Africa and the UK, where the omicron surges hit before the United States. They saw a sharp drop in the number of cases after the peak, but then saw it end abruptly.

Meanwhile, in California, four UCSF doctors lead a misguided push to return to pre-COVID normal in classrooms by removing mask requirements for children. It’s mind-boggling. And he created a split at the prestigious medical education center, with some of UCSF’s top experts pushing back, saying such a move is premature.

“Compared to sending everyone home every time there is a case, masks are a much less intrusive type of intervention, says Dr. George Rutherford, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the ‘UCSF.

Our two main defenses against the coronavirus remain vaccinations and masks. Only 65% Californian children aged 12 to 17 are vaccinated, and only 29% are vaccinated and boosted. As for children aged 5 to 11, only 28% are vaccinated.

This leaves masking for about half of the state’s K-12 students as the primary defense against the spread of the virus. This at a time when, for reasons still poorly understood, children make up a greater share hospitalizations related to COVID-19 than at any other time during the pandemic.

For now, Newsom and his health secretary, Dr Mark Ghaly, have postponed a decision on school masking until February 28. For the sake of our children, their teachers, and their families, let’s hope the governor and Ghaly show more resistance to political pressure on school guarantees than they did during the premature lifting of the interior masking for the general population.

About Julius Southworth

Check Also

Jeffrey Goldberg: Against Labels – The Atlantic

Dear reader, Sometimes I write to you about the sorry state of our democracy, other …