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Bay Area doctors discuss whether outdoor mask mandate should be dropped

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Some public health experts are beginning to call for an end to outdoor mask mandates.

One doctor has written to both the state and city’s public health department advocating that Californians be allowed to ditch their masks outside now.

Putting your mask on before leaving the house has become part of our daily routine, but UCSF infectious disease expert Dr. Monica Gandhi says because studies are showing it’s much safer outside in the fresh air, we should be able to skip it.

“There was an Irish Times study from Ireland that showed about one in 1,000 transitions are outside and there was another analysis done by some people at UCSF the rate of getting is much lower why because you have all that ventilation,” Dr. Gandhi said.

She says the World Health Organization only advocates wearing a mask outside if you can’t keep a distance of three feet from other people.

“It’s not crowded rallies where people are yelling or around each other, that’s the time to put the mask on but outdoors now when you’re outdoor exercising, you’re passing each other on the street, you’re hanging out in a park and you’re hanging out with your friends, there’s no reason to wear a mask at that point based on the biology,” Dr. Gandhi said.

Another UCSF infectious disease expert, Dr. George Rutherford, doesn’t believe the mask mandate should be lifted just yet. 

He thinks the state’s number of daily case rates needs to come way down and more shots need to go in Californian arms before we consider it.

“I think it’s 42% of Californians have had at least one dose we’ve got a ways to go here. I think once we get up into the 60s maybe in total in terms of the total proportion of vaccinations including people who are ineligible, like children, then we can have this conversation, but between now and then there are substantial pockets of under immunizations in the state they are variance around and I think we need to be careful,” Dr. Rutherford said.

Dr. Rutherford says he doesn’t expect us to be wearing masks outside forever but thinks the mask mandate should be left in place for now and reassessed in the summer.

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