Many businesses in Los Angeles County were scrambling Sunday to respond to a new public health order requiring residents to wear masks in all indoor public settings, regardless of their vaccination status.
The new health order, which went into effect as of midnight Sunday, comes amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic that has seen local case rates and hospitalizations skyrocket.
Health officials said that fully vaccinated people are protected from getting seriously ill, and the new guidance is an effort to prevent the spread of the contagious delta variant among unvaccinated people.
For many businesses in the Southland, the new mandate is likely to spark confusion — and perhaps pushback — among customers.
At Sierra Health and Fitness in Sierra Madre, gym owner Sandy Duvall said she was going to put up a large banner outside her business, saying “Vaccinated members only.”
“The people who are not vaccinated, I want them to be safe also. And I also want them to be smart,” Duvall said, citing the recent statistics that most of the people who are getting sick from COVID-19 are those who are unvaccinated.
Officials say that about 99% of the people getting sick are unvaccinated. This mirrors trends seen nationwide, as more than 97% of COVID-19 patients entering hospitals across the country are unvaccinated, according to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Friday that his department will not enforce the new mandatory indoor mask requirement.
“Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted Covid-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science,” Villanueva wrote in a statement posted on his department’s website on Friday.
The Sheriff’s Department “will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance,” the statement continued.
L.A. County’s latest mask mandate also puts the region’s public health department at odds with both the state’s public health department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — both of which say that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor places.
With California fully reopened and pandemic restrictions lifted, it remains unclear how willing residents will be to pick up their masks again — especially with little enforcement.