With COVID-19 cases once again on the rise, Sacramento County’s top public health official is “strongly” recommending that people wear masks in public, indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status.

“Vaccinated residents are strongly recommended to wear masks in indoor settings where vaccination verification is not required and the vaccination status of others is unknown,” Sacramento County Public Health said in a release. It cited public spaces such as grocery stores and restaurants as examples.

Issued on July 15, the guidance is not mandatory, unlike the state-level mask order, which requires unvaccinated people to wear masks indoors.

County Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye said the case numbers are a cause for worry. The county had anticipated a slight rise in cases after lockdown ended on June 15, but not to the degree that the area is experiencing.

“What we expected was that there’d be a little bit of an increase in cases and then a small increase — maybe one or two percentage points’ increase — in the case rate,” Kasirye said in a Thursday call with journalists. “But what we’re seeing now is that the numbers are continuing to climb.”

As of July 16, the county reported a seven-day average of 222 cases per day, more than three times the recent low of 61 cases per day, which came days after the lifting of most lockdown restrictions. On July 15, the county case rate had risen to 13.4 cases per 100,000 residents from a post-lockdown low of 3.9.

Under the old color-tier system, this case rate would have placed Sacramento County in the most-restrictive purple tier.

The county has had 111,884 coronavirus cases total and 1,762 deaths.

In Galt’s 95632 ZIP code, 67 new cases have been reported in the last 30 days, bringing the total cases for Galt to 2,907. The Galt area death total sits at 47, unchanged since early June.

Sacramento County Public Health attributes part of the surge to the spread of the more virulent delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Kasirye said in the release accompanying the mask recommendations that the main way to control the surge is for residents to get vaccinated. During the call with reporters, she said that the majority of new cases are among the unimmunized.

“The drastic increase in cases is concerning – as is the number of people choosing not to get vaccinated,” Kasirye’s statement read. “Our best protection against COVID-19 continues to be the vaccine. We urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves, and their family and friends.”

The Galt area’s vaccination rate continues to lag behind the county rate; 39.7% of Galt residents are fully vaccinated compared to 48.3% of county residents.

Asked why county residents should take the new guidance seriously, Kasirye explained the mask recommendation as a way for people to contribute to stopping the spread of the virus.

“Actually, even prior to us putting this guidance out, a lot of people chose to continue wearing face coverings, especially in public places, especially in places where you had mixed groups,” the public health officer told reporters. “So this is just an encouragement to others who were considering it that it’s something additional that they can do to help.”