After hitting a key milestone, Los Angeles County will lift its indoor mask mandate Friday.
Prior to Thursday, the county was categorized as having high COVID-19 risk by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. But now, L.A. County has moved to the low risk category and so it can modify its health officer order to strongly recommend — but no longer require — masks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in most indoor places.
The change aligns L.A. County with California state rules, which on Tuesday stopped mandating indoor masking for unvaccinated people.
Still, businesses can choose to keep their mask requirement in place for both customers and employees, just as patrons can still choose to wear a mask.
As required by the state, masking will continue to be required indoors at childcare sites and K-12 schools until March 12. At that point, school districts can choose whether or not to continue to require masking.
Mirroring the state, L.A. County will still be requiring masks — regardless of vaccination status — for everyone on public transit, at emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional detention facilities, homeless shelters and long term care facilities.
And, masking is still required for individuals who are permitted to end COVID isolation or quarantine early because they tested out through day 10 after their exposure.
Vaccination verification will still be required at indoor mega events, and at health care and congregate care settings. However, it will only be a recommendation now for entry to outdoor mega events and indoor portions of bars, nightclubs, lounges wineries, distilleries and breweries.
The changes come just a week after L.A. County modified its health officer order to allow businesses and venues verifying everyone’s vaccination status and checking COVID-19 test results to make masking optional for fully vaccinated people only.
The county is dropping its mask mandate earlier than anticipated, as it had originally planned to do so when it hit the “moderate” transmission level on the CDC’s old framework for seven consecutive days — a milestone the county was expected to hit in mid-March. But last week, the CDC announced it is shifting to a new system that depends on both coronavirus case numbers and on hospital admissions, easing mask requirements for much of the country.
L.A. County brought back its indoor mask mandate in July 2021 amid an increase in coronavirus cases and concerns over the surging delta variant.
The mandate had remained in place since, spanning two different surges fueled by different variants, delta and omicron.
The county has seen case numbers decline steadily in recent weeks, after the latest winter surge sent infection numbers skyrocketing to record highs.
Still, many in the county remain unvaccinated and the region still contends with disparities in case rates tied to race and poverty levels.
Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer emphasized in a briefing Thursday that the department still strongly recommends people mask up, as the virus still poses a risk.
“We do strongly encourage everyone to continue to work together to slow transmission, making sensible choices and decisions,” Ferrer said. “With a vastly decreased reliance on mitigation requirements, as opposed to recommendations, vaccines do take on a more important role in community prevention.”