Those masks that have been tucked away for the last month may have to come back out as health officials report an increase in COVID-19 cases locally and statewide.

The rise in cases is largely from the spread of the Delta variant and the number of people that remain unvaccinated.

In Stanislaus County, the number of hospitalized individuals with COVID-19 was at 61 as of Monday, with 18 in the ICU. On Friday, the number of people hospitalized was at 38 and 10 in the ICU, according to the data from the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency.

In Merced County, the number of hospitalized was at 13 on July 13 and then grew to 41 on July 15. As of July 18, 35 people in Merced County are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the Merced County Public Health Department.

Because cases are on the rise, Stanislaus County health officials are advising people to start wearing masks again indoors.

“With this highly infectious Delta variant spreading, fully vaccinated people may want the extra protection of wearing a mask indoors,” the Stanislaus County health department said in a news release. “If you or someone in your household is 65 or older, has risk factors for COVID-19, or has any conditions or medications that lower your immune system, thereby lowering your chances of developing immunity from the vaccine, Public Health recommends wearing a mask indoors. All unvaccinated people are required to mask indoors as per State mandate.”

As of this time, Merced County has not issued any such guidance.

The health department is encouraging more residents to get vaccinated, especially with the Delta variant spreading.

“There is much unknown about the Delta variant, such as whether this variant causes more severe disease, but we do know that this variant is about two times more transmissible than the original coronavirus strain,” SCHSA stated.

A single dose of Pfizer has been shown to be around 30 percent effective against the Delta variant. Public Health urges all those 12 years old and older who have not completed their vaccine series to get their second dose as soon as possible. Previous infections offer some protection against the Delta variant but less than vaccination, especially in those 65 years and older.

“Our vaccines are still protective against the Delta variant, but a little less so than against strains of COVID-19 that were circulating last year,” SCHSA said. “No vaccine is 100% protective.”

As of Monday, Stanislaus County has recorded 211,632 fully vaccinated residents 12 and over and 57,074 partially vaccinated people 12 and over.

“Only 45% of Stanislaus County residents aged 12 years old and older are fully vaccinated, leaving most adolescents and adults unprotected and at risk for COVID-19, the health department said.”

In Merced County the percentage of residents 12 and over that have been fully vaccinated is at 30.60 percent.