Mask Mandate Won't Return Friday to Los Angeles County

Coronavirus cases and hospitalization rates are trending down in the area
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 14, 2022 7:10 PM CDT
Updated Jul 28, 2022 5:10 PM CDT
LA County Could Lead Way in Reinstating Mask Mandates
Masked patrons wait to order at a food stand inside Grand Central Market on Wednesday in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Update: An indoor mask mandate scheduled to take effect Friday in Los Angeles County won't, after officials decided the number of new coronavirus cases has dropped enough to make it unnecessary. Hospitalization rates also have improved, the Los Angeles Times reports. Criticism of the reimposition increased as Friday neared. Masks will still be the rule in indoor transit areas, including airports and taxis, as well as at nursing homes, jails, and other places that require them. California reports statewide cases are in decline, as well, though totals are still high. Our original story from July 14 follows:

Nick Barragan is used to wearing a mask because his job in the Hollywood film industry has long required it. So he won't be fazed if the county that's home to Tinseltown becomes the first major population center this summer to reinstate rules requiring face coverings indoors because of another spike in coronavirus cases, the AP reports. "I feel fine about it because I've worn one pretty much constantly for the last few years. It's become a habit,” said Barragan, masked up while running errands Wednesday. Los Angeles County, home to 10 million residents, faces a return to a broad indoor mask mandate on July 29 if current trends in hospital admissions continue, health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.

Ferrer conceded that "for many, this will feel like a step backwards," but requiring masks again is among the "sensible safety precautions" during a jump in cases that's reminiscent of the Delta variant-fueled surge last summer. "We are not closing anything down. We are not asking people not to gather with the people they love," Ferrer said in a public briefing. "We're asking you to take a sensible step, when there's this much transmission with a highly transmissible variant, to go ahead and put back on a well fitting, high-filtration mask when you're indoors around others." Nationwide, the latest COVID-19 surge is driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 variant, which now accounts for 65% of cases, with its cousin BA.4 contributing another 16%. The variants have shown a remarkable ability to get around the protection offered by vaccination.

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With the new omicron variants again pushing hospitalizations and deaths higher, states, and cities are rethinking their responses, and the White House is stepping up efforts to alert the public. Some experts said that effort is too late. "It's well past the time when the warning could have been put out there," said Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. He has called BA.5 "the worst variant yet." Global trends for the two mutants have been apparent for weeks, experts said. Yet Americans have tossed off their masks and jumped back into travel and social gatherings. And they have largely ignored booster shots, which protect against COVID-19's worst outcomes. "We learn a lot from how the virus is acting elsewhere, and we should apply the knowledge here," said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington. Federal health officials need to push harder on masks indoors, early detection, and prompt antiviral treatment, Mokdad said.

(More mask mandates stories.)

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