LA County Ends Indoor Mask Mandate

Indoor mask-wearing is no longer mandatory in Los Angeles County thanks to revised data released by federal health officials Thursday showing a decreased impact of COVID-19 on the county's health care system.

Yesterday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially moved the county out of its "high'' virus activity category and into the "low'' category and the County Public Health Department issued a modified Health Officer Order lifting the mask mandate on Friday.

The CDC updates its county-level data every Thursday. It categories are based largely on the number of new virus-related hospital admissions and on the overall availability of hospital beds.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said earlier this week that, once the CDC revised the county's classification, a new health officer order will be issued that removes the county's long-standing mandate for people to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

That move puts the county in alignment with the state, which dropped its mask mandate on Tuesday.

Mask-wearing, however, will continue to be "strongly recommended,'' particularly in crowded settings or while interacting with people at higher risk of severe illness from the virus, said Public Health officials.

Masking will continue to be 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, said Public Health. Indoor masks also continue to be required on K-12 school campuses, although the county and state will lift that requirement on March 12.

County health officials also noted that people attending indoor mega-events of 1,000 or more people -- such as sporting events -- will still be required to show proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test to be admitted.

Vaccine verification or a negative test will also still be required at health care facilities and congregate-care facilities.

The county has dropped its requirement that people show proof of vaccination to patronize indoor portions of bars, nightclubs and lounges.

While the mask mandate will likely be lifted, Ferrer warned Tuesday that the virus remains a threat. She said the county will be monitoring seven "alert signals'' that could portend increased virus activity.

Three of them are community-wide metrics -- variants of concern, COVID-19 emergency department visits and cumulative COVID case rates in high-poverty communities. The other four "alert signals'' involve specific sectors, tracking outbreaks at skilled nursing facilities, at K-12 schools, at homeless shelters and at worksites.

If two or more of those signals rise to alert levels, the county will work to determine what is causing the increase and whether restrictions need to be reinstated, health officials said.

“Despite the encouraging news, people who are unvaccinated, immunocompromised, or living in low-resourced communities, continue to be at higher risk and are more likely to become seriously ill and die from COVID-19,” said Ferrer. “Along with the significant protection provided by vaccines and boosters, masks add an important barrier to transmission that protects those most vulnerable from the worst outcomes. Therefore, Public Health, in alignment with the state, strongly recommends that individuals keep their masks on in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, until there is less risk for those at elevated risk.”


Reader Comments(0)