Los Angeles County’s mask mandate could return as COVID cases rise

Los Angeles County may soon reinstate indoor mask requirements as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the area.

During a news conference Thursday, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the largest county in the United States has achieved “intermediate” COVID-19 transmission rates and will require face coverings if it reaches the “high” category.

As of Dec. 1, Los Angeles County was recording an average of 2,490 new COVID-19 infections per day, the highest number since Aug. 26, according to Health Department data.

Ferrer said the actual number is likely much higher because several people have tested positive with rapid home tests and the results have not been reported to public health officials, or because people did not test at all.

Los Angeles County COVID-19 cases

LA County Public Health

In addition, 1,164 residents in the county are currently hospitalized due to the virus, which is the highest number of patients since Aug. 11.

Daily deaths are still relatively low at 14, but the number could rise as COVID-related deaths typically lag increases in cases and hospitalizations by a few weeks, Ferrer noted.

“There’s this common mindset that the pandemic is over and COVID is no longer a problem, but these numbers clearly show that COVID is still with us,” she said.

Two weeks ago, county officials said they would “strongly recommend” residents to wear masks in indoor public places but stopped requiring them after the COVID-19 case rate hit 100 per 100,000 residents.

Currently, the weekly rate is 185 per 100,000 and Los Angeles County would likely be considered “high” if it reached 200 per 100,000.

If cases continue to rise at the same rate, the county is expected to reach the high category next week, Ferrer said.

According to Ferrer, mask requirements will return when Los Angeles County’s daily average hospital admissions exceed a rate of 10 per 100,000 and when more than 10% of occupied inpatient beds are occupied by COVID patients. Both are benchmarks set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Given the increase in hospitalizations and the lack of certainty about the winter trajectory of COVID-19, pursuing some sensible mitigation strategies that we know help limit transmission and disease, including masking and updating vaccines and boosters, remains a very sensible approach,” she said.

Department of Health data shows that 73% of all residents are fully vaccinated, but percentages vary widely by age.

Seniors 65 years and older have the highest rate with 92% complete vaccination, while children aged 6 months to 4 years have the lowest rate with only 6% complete vaccination.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *