Los Angeles County is reimplementing its mask mandate indoors — regardless of vaccination status— amid an increase in coronavirus case numbers and concerns over the delta variant, officials announced Thursday.
The new masking order goes into effect 11:59 p.m. on Saturday.
“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 will be too late, given what we’re seeing,” L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a briefing with reporters.
L.A. County has seen several consecutive days with more than 1,000 new cases reported daily amid a “rapid and sustained” spike in the number of infections. The county recorded 1,537 new coronavirus cases Thursday — a 83% increase over the last week, according to Davis.
“Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so they can stop the trends and level of transmission we’re currently seeing,” Davis said.
It’s unclear how long the new mask requirements will remain in effect. “We expect to keep this order in place until we begin to see improvements,” Davis said.
L.A. County’s new order comes after the health department on June 28 started “strongly recommending” that people wear masks indoors in public places. The move came just two weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the statewide mask mandate.
“We took a chance in terms of lifting the physical distancing requirements as well as the capacity limits. We changed the masking at the time. We felt it was reasonable to do given the level of community transmission that we had at that moment,” Davis said. “But this is not the same situation. We’re in a very different situation. This is not the same as what it was June 15.”
Now, L.A. County is ranked as having “substantial” coronavirus community transmission.
The fear is that more people will die of COVID-19 as hospitalization numbers increase, according to Davis.
He said the pandemic is still being driven by unvaccinated people, and vaccination rates are low in the communities where transmission is rising fastest.
Recovery from the pandemic is also complicated by the spread of the delta coronavirus variant, now California’s dominant coronavirus strain. The variant became a source for concern as it was found to be more contagious than even the other highly contagious variants reported.
“Given that slightly under 4 million L.A. County residents are not vaccinated, the risk of increased spread of this variant within our county remains high,” the health officer said.
“It’s just disappointing that overall vaccination numbers are lower than we need them to be,” Davis said.
Asked if there could be more restrictions coming to L.A. County, Davis said “anything is on the table if things continue to get worse.”
Officials said the county’s Health Officer Order will be updated to outline the masking requirements by Friday.