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Americans might prefer vaccine mandates over mask mandates, but not in San Diego County

COVID-19 masks
Posted at 6:48 PM, Aug 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 12:53:38-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- At least ten California counties have now reimposed mask mandates to slow the spread of the delta variant, but several recent polls suggest Americans might actually prefer a vaccine mandate instead.

A Monmouth University poll released Monday found 52 percent of Americans support “instituting, or reinstituting, face mask and social distancing guidelines” in their state. Forty-six percent of respondents were opposed.

Compare that to two other recent national polls that found support for a vaccine mandate between 60 and 64 percent.

The numbers are drawn from different polls so the results should not be considered conclusive, but they broadly show that support for vaccine mandates has expanded while the popularity of mask mandates has contracted, as first noted by the Washington Post.

At certain junctures in 2020, support for mask mandates exceeded 70 percent in California. It’s now down to 49 percent support, with another 39 percent opposed.

However, San Diego County residents clearly prefer a mask mandate over a vaccine mandate, according to an ABC 10News/San Diego Union-Tribune poll released last week.

The scientific survey of 650 adult residents in the county found 44 percent supported a vaccination requirement, while 60 percent supported a universal mask mandate for indoor public spaces.

Both public health interventions have merits, but Dr. Jyotu Sandhu of Sharp Reas-Stealy Family Medicine said he personally would prefer a vaccine mandate over a mask mandate.

“You don't need a mask if you squash the virus,” Dr. Sandhu said.

Some experts think the national trend in favor of a vaccine mandate might be explained by American’s sheer vaccination numbers.

Two-thirds of eligible Americans over age 12 have now gotten at least one dose. That means for the majority of Americans, a vaccine mandate doesn’t directly affect them; it places an obligation on the unvaccinated to catch up with a life-saving public health step they’ve already taken.

A mask mandate, on the other hand, affects everyone. Some vaccinated Americans might feel resentment towards the unvaccinated for the return to masks, since the unvaccinated are disproportionately fueling infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

In short, mask mandates may feel like a regression back to 2020, Sandhu said.

“If everybody got on board and did their part in the pandemic and got vaccinated, then we wouldn't necessarily need to make these types of measures to go backwards,” Dr. Sandhu said.

For those who might feel frustrated by mask mandates, Dr. Sandhu said it's important to remember mask mandates also add a layer of protection for people who the vaccines cannot protect: children and the immunocompromised.

On Monday, health officials in seven Bay Area counties announced a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. The order takes effect Tuesday at midnight in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley.

Los Angeles, Sacramento and Yolo counties have already resumed indoor mask mandates.

Over the weekend, San Diego mayor Todd Gloria said he did not anticipate a change to the state or county public health orders. But in an interview Saturday, he noted “we’re in a dynamic environment.”

“I hear from folks who are frustrated the advice changes. As we learn better, we must do better. What we are learning is that the delta variant is extremely dangerous and causes us to engage with the virus differently,” he said.