LA County mask mandate goes into effect as 1,827 new COVID infections reportedMonday, July 19, 2021
A new face-covering mandate went into effect in Los Angeles County late Saturday night amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic that has seen local case rates and hospitalizations skyrocket.
The new rule requires everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of their vaccination status, and took effect at 11:59 p.m.
The county reported 1,827 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 additional deaths on Saturday, as health officials attributed the recent spike to the presence of the more infectious Delta variant and the intermingling of unmasked individuals where vaccination status is unknown.
Saturday's daily test positivity rate was 3.7%. On July 4, it was near 1.5% and on June 15, test positivity was near 0.5%.
The number of people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to the virus jumped from 462 on Friday to 507, while the number of those patients in intensive care remained at 103, according to state figures.
The latest figures lifted the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,266,227 cases and 24,579 fatalities, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
"Given the increased intermingling among unmasked people where vaccination status is unknown, the millions of people still unvaccinated, and the increased circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant, we are seeing a rapid increase in COVID-19 infection,'' County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "The level of COVID-19 transmission we are currently experiencing is now leading to significant increases in serious illness and hospitalizations, and requires us to take immediate action to prevent erosion of our recovery efforts.
"And while vaccinations are by far the most powerful tool we have, we are nowhere near herd immunity. While we continue efforts to increase vaccination coverage and build confidence in the vaccines, the simplest and most effective public health measure to add back is to require that everyone wear a mask in all indoor public places and businesses. For those of us already vaccinated, we have been required for the last couple of months to continue to wear masks in many other public places including on all public transit, at all health care settings, schools and day care facilities. 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.''
Not everyone at the county is on board with the new mandate.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Friday his deputies will not actively enforce the mask-wearing mandate, insisting his department is under-funded. He also said the requirement for vaccinated people to wear masks "is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.''
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, the lone Republican on the five-member Board of Supervisors, also criticized the mandate for running afoul of federal and state rules on masking. She also said the mask mandate won't help the county's efforts "to stress the efficacy of the vaccines and compel unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated.''
"By deviating from the state, we create confusion and disagreement at the local level, which hinders public trust and takes away from our primary messaging which should be to encourage individuals to get vaccinated with urgency given the spread of the Delta variant,'' Barger said.
Fellow board members Hilda Solis, Janice Hahn and Sheila Kuehl have come out in favor of the mandate.
"The county has chosen a reasonable response given that virtually everyone agrees requiring proof of vaccination status before entering buildings is unrealistic,'' Kuehl said. "This keeps businesses open but makes it less likely unvaccinated people will just skip masks and put us all at risk. Until we can lower community transmission again and get more Angelenos vaccinated, we all need to pitch in and keep from providing breeding grounds for even more variants.''