Days after mandate eases, LA County urges masks to fend off COVID

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Chris Murphy, 33-years old, shops at Commando Military Surplus on Main Street in Newhall, Thursday, March 3, 2022. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

Los Angeles County’s health director continued urging residents on Monday, March 7, to wear masks, even though they’re no longer required in most indoor settings, saying they still offer strong protection against COVID-19 transmission.

“Although masking is not required, both the state and our Public Health Department are strongly recommending masking, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public spaces,” Ferrer said in a statement. “And those who are at elevated risk, or who live with someone who is at elevated risk, should wear a well-fitting respirator, as they provide the best protection against COVID-19.

“COVID-related illness can be quite dangerous for many, since even those initially experiencing relatively mild illness can go on to develop long COVID. Taking sensible precautions remains the best way to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

The county lifted its indoor mask mandate for most locations on Friday, following the state’s lead. But the masks are still “strongly recommended” by the state and the county.

Masking is still required in higher-risk settings, including health care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.

Indoor masks also continue to be required on K-12 school campuses, although the county and state will lift that requirement on Saturday. The policy, however, is expected to remain in place in the Los Angeles Unified School District until the end of the school year.

Despite the easing of the requirement, county officials noted that individual businesses can still opt to require face coverings. People are also free to wear masks whenever they see fit, particularly in crowded settings or while interacting with people at higher risk of severe illness from the virus.

The county on Monday reported 43 new COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the overall death toll from the virus to 31,046. Another 1,675 new cases were reported from the past two days. The county no longer reports COVID numbers on Sundays.

The new cases gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 2,805,119. The average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1% as of Monday.

According to state figures, there were 731 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles hospitals as of Monday, down from 755 on Sunday. Of those patients, 130 were being treated in intensive care, down slightly from 131 on Sunday.

People attending indoor mega-events of 1,000 or more people — such as sporting events — in the county are still required to show proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test to be admitted. Vaccine verification or a negative test is also still be required for workers at health care facilities and congregate-care facilities.

    But the county has dropped its requirement that people show proof of vaccination to patronize indoor portions of bars, nightclubs and lounges or outdoor mega-events.

    However, a city of Los Angeles ordinance that took effect Nov. 8 remains in effect. That ordinance requires people over age 12 to show proof of vaccination before patronizing indoor restaurants, gyms, entertainment and recreational facilities, personal care establishments, some city buildings and mega-events with 5,000 or more attendees within the city of Los Angeles. People can be exempt from that mandate for medical reasons or if they have a “sincerely held religious belief,” and each business is responsible for reviewing exemptions.

    City Council President Nury Martinez on Friday introduced a motion to start the process of possibly rescinding the ordinance. But the full council must first agree to do so, then the city attorney will have to draft a new ordinance and bring it back to the council for another vote.

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