Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston today urged people to remain cautious amid soaring Covid infection rates in the region.
The call comes as England readies itself for next week's lifting of many remaining coronavirus restrictions.
However on Wednesday Middlesbrough's infection rate rose to 1,004 per 100,000 of population.
Mayor Preston and Mark Adams, Joint Director of Public Health for South Tees, are stressing that the wearing of face coverings still has a key role to play in stemming the spread of the virus.
And they point to the ruling by London Mayor Sadiq Khan that masks should remain compulsory on public transport in London.
Mayor Preston said: "I hate face masks, but I do know that wearing one limits the spread of Covid and saves lives.
"I also know how difficult the last 16 months has been for everyone, and all of us want to get our lives back to normal as soon as possible.
"But the virus is spreading like wildfire across the North East, and the data is still not clear on the impact that will have on rates of hospitalisation and mortality.
"Everyone here has done an amazing job in helping to keep this dreadful disease at bay, and I'd just urge them not to let their guard down until we know more.
"Of course it's vital that we get the economy back up and running again, but for the time being I think it's a really good idea to keep on wearing face masks on trains, buses and taxis and anywhere where there are large groups gathered indoors.
"Freedom is in sight, but we just need one last push before the worst is finally behind us."
South Tees Joint Director of Public Health Mark Adams said: "Our rate is concerning, particularly given legal restrictions haven't yet been removed.
"Learning to live with Covid isn't the same as ignoring it, and I would encourage everyone to do all they can to protect themselves and everyone they come into contact with.
"Wearing a face covering on public transport and in enclosed public places is undoubtedly the reasonable human thing to do. You're wearing a mask for the benefit of other people.
"At the same time, hundreds of walk-in vaccination slots are available every week in Middlesbrough. We need all adults to be double vaccinated as soon as they're eligible.
"Regularly testing using lateral flow devices will also help us identify people who are infectious.
"We've stopped the spread before and we need everyone's cooperation to do it again.
"Let's not throw away everything our communities have worked so hard for over the past 16 months."
Details of walk-in vaccination slots can be found on the Tees Valley CCG website.