Facemasks could potentially return as L.A. County continues seeing a troubling uptick in respiratory illness including two new COVID-19 variants and RSV infections among children.

On Friday, Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, warned that hospitalizations and overall COVID cases are on the rise.

If the county reaches 100 cases per 100,000 residents, indoor masking recommendations could return. For now, L.A. County is at 86 cases per 100,000 residents.

“Indoor masking will, as it has in the past for elevated transmission, be strongly recommended for everyone,” said Ferrer in a Friday press conference.

Along with other respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID, doctors are now dealing with a surge in RSV (respiratory syncytial virus infection), especially among children. The illness can be serious for kids but especially troublesome for infants and children with respiratory issues.

“Like my oldest child having asthma, it’s every time the seasons change,” said a local mother. “We can bank on being in the hospital for a couple of days.”

“Across the country, about 78% of all pediatric beds are now full, so we are beginning to get concerned about our ability to handle the higher volume as it goes along,” said Dr. Kimberly Shriner, an infectious disease doctor with Huntington Hospital. 

L.A. County reports seeing higher numbers of RSV than in previous years. Shriner believes isolation during the pandemic may be the cause.

“Normal viruses that occur during normal winters in the community were not circulating and so, especially in young children who were not in school and were home, they didn’t have an opportunity to experience some of these viruses, so they don’t have any immunity to it,” explained Shriner.

County officials are now encouraging parents to be mindful before sending their children to school, especially if they’re experiencing RSV symptoms such as a cough or runny nose. Children experiencing a fever or breathing issues should contact their doctor immediately.

Health officials are encouraging people to receive their booster shots and flu vaccines to avoid straining local medical facilities even further.