Los Angeles County’s rekindled mask mandate went into effect late Saturday night amid rising concern about increased infection among unvaccinated people and that the region’s “full recovery” from the pandemic is on the line.
The new requirement, which launched Saturday night at 11:59 a.m., calls for everyone — with few exceptions and regardless of whether you got the shot – must wear a mask indoors when in public spaces.
- On public transit and at transportation hubs;
- Inside K-12 schools, childcare and youth settings;
- At healthcare facilities;
- In homeless shelters as well as emergency and cooling sites; and
- At all indoor public settings, including offices, retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, state and local government offices.
The order also recommends higher levels of protection — such as double-masking — where there’s close contact with others who are not vaccinated.
And it requires individuals, businesses, venue operators or hosts of public indoor events to require all patrons — vaccinated or not — to wear masks, and they must clearly post signage requiring masts at all entry points to a setting.
There are some exceptions — such as employees at certain workplaces who cannot wear a mask while performing specific tasks. Exceptions also include children under the age of two and people with certain medical conditions or disabilities that prevent masking.
At mega events such as music or food festivals, parades and concerts, everybody must wear a mask in areas where 50% of of the structure has adjacent impermeable walls.
The new public health order kicks in at a tenuous time.
While case rates are not huge, and far from the massive surges last seen in January, public health experts and physicians worry that the region is seeing a repeat of previous patterns of surges, which have led to more hospitalizations, and ultimately more death.
That pattern goes some something like:
- A general period of easing restrictions/with falling or stableized rates;
- A holiday — people gather, less physical distancing;
- Two weeks later, rising cases;
- And two weeks after that, lagging indicators such as hospitalizations and death occur.
On a positive note, 69% of L.A. County residents ages 16 and up have been vaccinated with at least one dose as of Friday, July 16. But that leaves 3 to 4 million people in the county still not fully vaccinated — a number that could still lead to significant surging in weeks to come.
And that’s what the more infectious Delta variant likes — a host body to live in that is not protected by a vaccine or by natural immunity.
Indeed, on July 4, the region’s test positivity rates were near 1.5%. Now they are near 4. And while still relatively low compared to peak post-holiday surges, the number of average daily deaths appears to have bottomed out in late June and ticked up again since the beginning of July.
Officials and doctors say a goal of the renewed mask mandate is to avoid a situation where people’s live are again on the line, stuck on a ventilator in an ICU. Many of the most recent patients are younger than 50, a point in their favor if infected. But that point is also countered if a person has underlying conditions that could make them more vulnerable to the disease.
Vaccinated people appear to be generally safe, though experts say that the vaccine’s efficacy may wear off over time, so boosters may be needed. And there have been some cases in which the disease breached a person’s immunity. But the vaccines largely protects against the coronavirus and, even if you do get it, the chance you will develop serious symptoms is extremely rare.
Still, officials spent the weekend urging residents to at least put on the low-tech, low-maintenance mask to stave off a resurgent disease that could jeopardize a full economic and human recovery from the pandemic.
“This was done in recognition that the vaccines, while extraordinarily effective, are not perfect and that we continue to have an obligation to reduce risk as much as possible,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said of the virus. “Please help us get back to slowing the spread by wearing your mask indoors. And for those eligible and not yet vaccinated, please consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible as our full recovery is in jeopardy until more people are vaccinated.”
To date, the Public Health Department has identified 1,266,227 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County, and the virus has led to the deaths of 24,579 people in this county since February 2020.
Source: Orange County Register