TIJUANA (Border Report) — Even though there are no mandates currently in place, Baja California health officials once again are urging residents to start using facemasks, especially indoors.

They say the Mexican border state is experiencing “a fifth wave” of COVID-19, with a sharp increase in cases over the last few weeks.

Most cases involve the new BA.5 subvariant, which is said to have the capability of replicating itself a number of times in human cells.

“With the rise in cases, the city’s tourist areas need to continue implementing sanitary protocols as we await for possible mandates by the state,” said Arturo Gutierrez, president of the Tijuana Tourism and Convention Committee.

Gutierrez also mentioned that Baja California’s health secretary needs to make changes reaffirming the need for facemasks, sanitizer stations and social distancing.

And he says businesses and services that cater to tourists should require clients and personnel to use facemasks even if not ordered by the state.

“We don’t want to minimize the need, we need to press with the protocols like we did during the height of the pandemic,” Gutierrez said.. “If we led this effort when there was little in terms of vaccinations and we overcame, we can do it again at this point in time.”

With a few major public events planned for the region in the coming weeks, Gutierrez is hopeful organizers will implement facemask requirements even if the events are to be held outdoors.

There’s also a movement to force Tijuana restaurants to offer meal services outdoors even if it means closing down popular streets such as Avenida Revolución to set up tables and chairs outside.

Hotels and other businesses where people gather in Baja California are also being urged to mandate facemasks.

“We need to get a bit creative to get out of this crisis,” Gutierrez said.

Baja Health Secretary José Adrián Medina Amarillas was asked about implementing tougher guidelines in various areas throughout the state, but he said he is not ready to go along.

“We are taking recommendations into very high consideration, especially the use of facemasks in indoor public places, but for the moment it will not be mandatory,” he said.

The health secretary said while cases are definitely up, mortality rates and hospitalizations remain low throughout the state.

According to state figures, there are currently 3,509 active cases, including 645 in the city of Tijuana, where only 12 people have required hospital care.