When the news came out last week that masks were once again recommended indoors in The City, some San Franciscans grew concerned. Others simply put their masks back on.
That makes sense. In a town that took the pandemic more seriously than most, some residents never stopped wearing masks in the first place. On a visit to West Portal Tuesday, shoppers and visitors confirmed that caution, driven by concern, remains a common point of view.
Peggy Nevin, a West Portal resident who has been vaccinated since February, is comfortable foregoing masks outdoors but continues to wear them indoors. She noticed that the area has always had a lot of people in masks, unlike what she sees in Marin or along the Peninsula.
“People were vigilant,” Nevin said. “We’re just trying to do the best with the information we have. I just kind of wish everyone could get vaccinated who can. Why aren’t we at 100 percent?”
When COVID restrictions lessened on June 15, many city residents were reluctant to forgo masks right away. Now, the latest guidelines come as an “extra precautionary measure” in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant making up more than half of new infections in the country. Vaccinated people are well protected against the variants and breakthrough cases are rare but do occur.
At 76 percent, San Francisco has some of the highest vaccination rates in the country. Nationwide, the rate is about 49 percent fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just one month ago, California’s grand economic reopening was seen as both confidence in the vaccines and an incentive to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Jodie, a West Portal visitor who declined to give their full name, said it was “disappointing” to see the guidelines change so soon after restrictions were lifted. She has kept her mask on for certain indoor settings like going inside stores.
“Going backward is such a psychological thing for people to go through,” she said. “The word ‘recommend’ is really interesting because people are going to interpret it differently.”
At Easy Breezy Frozen Yogurt, masks were still required as many customers are children who are still ineligible for vaccines. But worker Sophia Roth said guests sometimes have to be told to put them on.
“I have noticed that people are wearing masks less indoors after June 15,” Roth said. “I’m comfortable because it’s a low-stress business. People don’t take a long time to eat frozen yogurt.”
Some, like Jeremy Schott, continue to wear them outdoors out of habit and continued caution. He’s out in West Portal daily playing music for passersby and also noticed many continue to mask up outdoors like himself.
“Nothing changed in my life,” Schott said. “I’m used to it now. I just don’t want to take any chances.”
Altered guidelines also didn’t change the calculus for private security guard Darryl Sims.
“You don’t know who has it, you can’t trust that,” Sims said. “I’ve got to do what’s safe for me.”