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Why should vaccinators wear masks? UCSF experts explain.


Counties across California are recommending that people wear masks, even those who are fully vaccinated, in public indoor locations as the highly contagious delta variant drives an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Solano County is the only county in the Bay Area that has not issued an advisory mask, and several counties outside the region are calling for the return of indoor masks, including Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito. Los Angeles County requires masks in indoor public spaces.

If you are completely vaccinated, you may wonder why you should consider wearing a mask. Research shows vaccines are very effective and even if you get a tool case – that is, become infected even if you are vaccinated – you are unlikely to experience severe symptoms and very easily land in the hospital.


To explain the reasoning, SFGATE checked in with one of the country’s leading COVID experts, Dr. Bob Wachter, a professor and chair in the medicine department at UCSF.

Wachter wrote in an email. “I’m always comfortable going maskless at a small social gathering when I’m 100% sure everyone is vaccinated or 100% sure everyone who isn’t vaccinated wears a mask,” Wachter wrote in an email. “I don’t know how I can be sure about the latter, and even the former is tough unless it’s a small, trusted group.”

A sign explaining the COVID-19 mass policy at the Nordstrom department store, Walnut Creek, California, June 10, 2021.

A sign explaining the COVID-19 mass policy at the Nordstrom department store, Walnut Creek, California, June 10, 2021.

Smith / Gado / Gado Collection via Getty Images

Wachter gave seven reasons in his email why he may benefit from masks at rallies where there are chances of people not getting vaccinated who may or may not wear masks:

1) “The tool infection rate is small but very real.”

2) “The rate of tool and delta infection is likely a bit higher than with the original virus; this number is still being debated.”


3) “Delta might be more likely to lead to a serious infection than the original virus; at age 63, I’m already in a moderate risk group for hospitalization and death.”

4) “Even though the chances of long COVID and a breakthrough infection seem to be low, there is no solid evidence on this and we have certainly seen moderate primary infections cause prolonged symptoms.”

5) “I would guess that the chances of catching and transmitting COVID after vaccinations are low (as they were with the original virus), but this is also a bit uncertain.”

6) “Given # 5, I see going maskless indoors as not only potentially putting myself at risk but also others – particularly immunosuppressed people, children, and those who have chosen not to be vaccinated.”

7) “While the vaccines seem to hold up well, I am now more than 6 months out of my vaccination and we do not know the duration of effects, particularly with delta.”

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