To Mask…or Not To Mask…That Is The Question!
San Francisco is a very small city and a very important town! In general a community with more than 2,500 residents is considered a city while a town is defined as a populated area with fixed boundaries and a local government.
San Francisco is most colorfully described as an enormous health and wellness cult with a population of 769,000 immunization eligible residents over the age of 16. A village that embraces a successful community health improvement collaborative called the San Francisco Health Improvement Partnership or SFHIP. A city family that launched a strategic plan for community health improvement with performance measures for priority areas of focus including:
- Safe and healthy living environments
- Healthy eating and physical activity
- Access to quality health care and services
- African American Health Disparities
- Maternal, infant, child and adolescent health
- Health for those at risk of HIV
According to the UCSF Center for Community Engagement, San Francisco County Health Rankings are based on population health model trackings that- when improved- create healthy communities to “live, learn, work and play.” San Francisco was ranked among the healthiest counties in California on a ranking score of 75 to 100% for health outcomes in 2016…well before the COVID-19 pandemic and well before the current leadership in the City and County of San Francisco and it’s Department of Public Health. Access to exercise opportunities in San Francisco rank 100% while adult smoking and obesity are below 15% compared with California state averages approaching 25%.
In my professional opinion, pre-pandemic health and wellness influences that drive high health outcomes ranking for San Francisco County offer the best explanation for relatively low COVID — 19 case rates…not political decisions made by city leaders and local health officials who capitalize on the ease of managing a population of fewer than a million healthy people like a “feather in a political cap” or “bully pulpit” to bolster bid for higher office — ie: Dianne Feinstein’s senate seat!
A clear example is the May 11, 2021 celebratory twitter posting by Mayor London Breed announcing 75% of San Francisco residents have been vaccinated. A claim that deserves cafeful analysis and caution in light of the consternation generated by the May 14, 2021 CDC proclamation that, “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal state, local, tribal, or territorial rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”
The fact is that of an estimated 768,000 San Francisco residents over the age of 16… only 75% have received one vaccine dose and only 56% of San Franciscans are fully vaccinated…a percentage slightly higher than the California average of 50% as reported by the LA Times.
Thus, only 433, 848 San Francisco residents are fully vaccinated and can take off their masks both outdoors and indoors. The glass is not full and it’s too soon to celebrate on the Streets of San Francisco!
According to the May 14, 2021 New York Times article, Why the C.D.C. Changed Its Advice on Masks, federal health officials proclamation that fully vaccinated Americans could go maskless in both outdoor and indoor settings came as a surprise to many…from an anxious public to government officials and scientific experts. “Even the White House got less than a day’s notice”, stated White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a news briefing that Friday.
“The CDC, the doctors and medical experts there, are the ones who determined what this guidance would be based on their own data, and what the timeline would be,” Ms. Psaki said. “That was not a decision directed or made by the White House”.
And that’s what we should expect from independent federal health officials. Perhaps the CDC is flexing it’s muscle and asserting independence in the aftermath of it’s subjugation by the tyrannical oversight of the Trump admininistration…or perhaps it’s just deja vu all over again!
Many will recall that in mid May of 2020 there was considerable consternation over the benefits of even wearing a mask. It was not until July 14, 2020 that the CDC issued the press release calling on Americans to “wear masks to prevent COVID-19 spread” with the cheery message “Americans are increasingly adopting the use of cloth face masks to slow the spread of COVID — 19, and the latest science may convince even more to do so”.
The simplest explanation for the national declaration issued by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H, lies in major scientific findings that guided the decision. The first is that while vaccines are not 100% effective in preventing coronavirus infections, very few fully vaccinated people become infected and fully vaccinated people do not appear to transmit infection. The second is the effectiveness of vaccines against the range of COVID-19 variants. The third and most obvious is the incentive to boost immunizations rates in the face of lost momentum and to advance debate surrounding the safety and ethics of vaccinating young children.
On the Streets of San Francisco…To Mask or Not to Mask…That is the Question!
California officials were gagged silent by the CDC decision announced on May 14, 2021 over what Governor Gavin Newsom called “complexities around enforcement and lack thereof.”
Newsom- facing a recall challenge from critics demanding to “set Californians free from masks” — had announced a lifting of the mast mandate and opening the state economy by June 15th. The CDC decision raises the inevitable specter of “vaccine passports”, infringements on medical privacy laws and civil liberties in travel and unleases the environmental nightmare of the mass disposal of contaminated masks, gloves and protective equipment in our oceans and landfills.