Los Angeles County has suspended plans to bring back a universal indoor mask mandate as its Covid surge abates and hospitalization rates stabilize, the city’s chief health officer announced Thursday.
Chief Health Officer Barbara Ferrer warned two weeks ago that the LA County Public Health Department could reintroduce a face covering requirement if hospital admissions trends continue according to the criteria established by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But yesterday, at the much-awaited weekly public health briefing, she announced that the most populous county in the country had ruled out the need to reimpose the large mask rule.
“We’re in decline right now, and it’s hard for us to imagine restoring universal indoor masking when we’re on such a steep decline,” Ferrer said.
The decision was made after daily cases in LA County fell 30% during the two-week period that determined whether the order would be put in place – from nearly 6,000 daily cases to 4,169 per day. Deaths have also halved, from eight a day to four in the Southern California county.
It’s likely the county would have seen a rebellion over this had it tried to force citizens to wear masks indoors again, with Beverley Hills, Pasadena, El Segundo and Long Beach all coming out to say that they would not have enforced the rule. .
Case and death figures have plummeted across the country in recent weeks as America appears to have dodged what many predicted would be a massive summer surge fueled by the nascent BA.5 variant. After significant downward changes in mid-July, the number of cases and deaths in the United States stabilized at 131,478 and 417 per day respectively.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer (speaking at a May 8 public health briefing) announced that the nation’s most populous county will not institute a universal indoor mask mandate
The decision came as the county’s level of community transmission remained at the CDC’s “high” level, but is expected to drop to “medium” in the coming weeks based on recent Covid data.
According to county guidelines, Los Angeles County must reinstate an indoor mask mandate for all indoor public places if it reaches the “high” risk level for COVID-19 according to measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for at least 14 consecutive days. .
On July 14, the city entered a high level of transmission, raising fears that it may be the first city to reinstate masks to deal with the BA.5 variant.
A sharp turnaround in his Covid situation in the time since then has spared Angelenos. Figures updated Thursday evening put the county back in the “medium” Covid risk zone.
If orders had been put in place, it was likely that some individual sections of the county would have chosen not to comply with larger orders.
‘My City Council colleagues and I strongly believe that the decision to wear a mask should be the choice of the individual and should not be imposed by LA County,’ El Segundo, a town in South LA that includes Santa Monica Bay, Mayor Drew Boyles said in a statement ahead of the announcement.
Ferrer said transmission has been declining steadily since July 23, indicating stable and declining data. Hospitalizations are also down, “potentially signaling the start of a downward trend in cases.”
However, she warned that the situation remained under constant watch and was subject to review if transmission and hospitalization rates started to go the other way.
Ferrer reminded residents that while not mandatory, face masks were still an effective and recommended tool to limit the spread of Covid.
The mask mandate for certain indoor spaces, including health care facilities, subways and buses, airports, prisons and homeless shelters will remain in place.
The new requirements, if enacted, would have made it mandatory to wear masks at all times in all indoor public spaces, including shared offices, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, retail stores, restaurants and bars, theaters and schools.
Two people pictured wearing face coverings on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California in May 2020
Lili Bosse, the Democratic mayor of Beverly Hills, told Fox and Friends yesterday that her city would ignore any mask mandates.
She previously rescinded the ability to enforce an indoor mask mandate, and the council, led by herself, voted unanimously not to deploy resources.
Beverly Hills Democratic Mayor Lili Bosse (pictured) told Fox & Friends that her city would not enforce an indoor mask mandate if LA County makes it mandatory
Long Beach and Pasadena, which are in LA County but have their own health departments, had also said they would not enforce the warrant.
‘The [Long Beach] The Department of Health strongly encourages people to practice personal responsibility and common sense measures to protect themselves, their loved ones and the greater community from Covid-19,” according to a statement from Long Beach.
“People are advised to mask up indoors when in public places, to carry out rapid tests before and three to five days after social gatherings and to choose outdoor activities as far as possible. possible.”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said she was pleased with Ferrer’s announcement because “unenforceable warrants don’t work.”
‘Hopefully we can now move from this heightened focus on masking mandates to what really matters – focusing on promoting vaccine effectiveness and recalls, improving access to COVID-19 treatments and continue to educate our county. residents on the benefits of masking,’ Barger said in a statement Thursday.
“I’m comfortable leaving that decision in the very capable hands of the public.”
The BA.5 variant has caused an increase in Covid cases in many parts of America. Some experts even feared it could cause a summer surge similar to what hit the United States in 2020 and 2021.
It is feared to be the most transmissible version of the virus to take hold in the United States so far by health officials.
It is also immuno-evasive and can circumvent any protections a person may have against a previous Covid infection. Experts believe that a person could be re-infected with BA.5 a few weeks after recovering from a different version of the Omicron variant.
This is a potentially worrying prospect that alters many’s understanding of the pandemic.
BA.5 has rapidly increased in its prevalence across America and now accounts for nearly four out of five cases in the United States.
Although the number of cases increased throughout the first half of July, the full-fledged surge has yet to materialize. While big cities like Los Angeles and New York are already seeing case numbers stagnate and fall, it’s likely that America has already weathered the storm.