LA County Back to Requiring Masks Indoors

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The LA County Public Health Department issues an order requiring everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks indoors starting Saturday night.

In the face of steadily increasing COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Los Angeles County will again require people to wear masks in indoor settings beginning Saturday night, regardless of their vaccination status, health officials announced Thursday.

“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something would be too late given what we’re seeing now,” County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said.

On Thursday, the county reported 1,537 new infections, the highest number since early March. It was the seventh consecutive day of new case numbers that topped 1,000. The rate of virus spread in the county has officially risen from moderate to substantial. The current seven-day average rate of daily new cases in the county is now at 7.1 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 4.8 just last week.

The number of people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to the virus jumped to 452 on Thursday, according to state figures, up from 406 on Wednesday, with 96 people in intensive care. The number of people hospitalized has been climbing steadily for the past three weeks, and is now double the number reported when COVID health restrictions were lifted statewide on June 15.

While conceding that people who are vaccinated can still become infected, they are far less likely to become severely ill or die. As of Tuesday, among the nearly 4.8 million fully vaccinated residents, 4,122 have subsequently tested positive for the virus, a rate of 0.09%. Only 213 fully vaccinated residents have been hospitalized, for a rate of 0.0045%, and 26 have died, a rate of 0.0005%.

The rolling-average rate of people testing positive for the virus also continued to climb, reaching 3.75% on Thursday, up from 3.7% Wednesday and well above the 0.3% rate from early June, and 1.2% on June 15.

As a result, a revised county Health Officer Order will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, requiring people to wear masks in indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. 

The county previously only recommended such mask-wearing by vaccinated people in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and protect unvaccinated residents. People who are unvaccinated have always been required to wear masks indoors, although enforcement was left up to individual business owners and was generally on the honor system.

“Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing,” Davis said.

The masking order will remain in place “until we see improvements” in case transmission, he said.

Asked if the county might consider re-implementing other health restrictions — such as capacity limits and physical distancing, Davis said, “Everything is on the table if things continue to get worse.”

He said for now, mask-wearing is the “easiest thing” for people to do to help limit spread of the virus.

The mandate means customers will again be required to mask up when entering any indoor public establishment, including retail shops, grocery stores, restaurants and workplaces. Davis said indoor dining will remain open, but customers will have to remain masked while they are not eating or drinking.

Data and information courtesy of CNC – City News Service