California’s Los Angeles County announced Thursday it will reinstate indoor mask mandates amid surging COVID-19 cases.
The renewed mandate will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday and will require that all residents wear masks while indoors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against the virus.
The order continues to allow indoor dining, although customers are required to wear masks when not eating or drinking and some other exceptions will be in place, similar to previous mask mandates.
Los Angeles County health officer Dr. Muntu Davis described the new mandate as an “all-hands-on-deck moment” as the county reported 1,537 new cases on Thursday following an average of 1,077 new cases per day for a weeklong period ending Wednesday.
“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 now,” he said.
Davis added that the new order will remain in place “until we begin to see improvements” in combatting community transmission.
The mandate will be in effect throughout the county except in Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own independent health departments.
Officials in those cities said they have already recommended that all residents wear masks indoors and a Pasadena city spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times officials were “reviewing options for a mandate.”
California lifted business restrictions statewide on June 15 after reaching goals concerning vaccine availability and hospitalizations rates.
COVID-19 cases have risen at least 10% from last week in 45 states as the more infectious Delta virus has become more prominent.
Orange, San Diego and San Bernadino counties have all seen case averages more than double since late June and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Los Angeles, San Bernadino, San Diego and Riverside counties to have “substantial” community transmission — second worst on the agency’s four-tier scale.
Since the recent surge in cases, officials in Sacramento and Yolo counties have similarly issued recommendations for people to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, but neither has been made mandatory.
The California Department of Public Health said it has not changed its guidance on face coverings since lifting its mandate but supports individual local health departments in implementing stricter policies “based on the conditions in their community.”
“Vaccines remain the best protection against COVID-19, including the highly infectious Delta variant,” state health officials told the Los Angeles Times. “We urge all eligible to get vaccinated, as it is the most important thing we can do to stop the spread of the virus.”
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