Just a month ago, Los Angeles County and the rest of California celebrated a long-awaited reopening, marking the tremendous progress made in the battle against COVID-19 by lifting virtually all restrictions on businesses and other public spaces. Now, the coronavirus is resurgent, and the nation’s most-populous county is scrambling to beat back the pandemic’s latest charge.
Starting Saturday night, residents will again be required to wear masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of their vaccination status.
The latest order not only puts the county further at odds with both the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — both of which continue to maintain that vaccinated people need not cover their faces indoors — but puts officials in the precarious position of asking the inoculated to forfeit one of the benefits recently enjoyed.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” said Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer.
Vaccinated people are, in essence, being asked to make a sacrifice to help slow coronavirus spread among the unvaccinated.
Officials have stressed that those who have been inoculated have an excellent chance of being protected, even from the easily spread Delta variant, believed to be twice as transmissible as the conventional coronavirus strains. Between Dec. 7 and June 7, the unvaccinated accounted for 99.6% of L.A. County’s coronavirus cases, 98.7% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 99.8% of deaths.
The new order, which comes a little more than two weeks after the county recommended the same protocols as a precaution, will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday — and Davis said it will be similar to the masking requirements that were in place before the June 15 reopening.
“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 told reporters Thursday.
The order will continue to allow indoor restaurant dining, although people will need to keep their masks on when they’re not eating or drinking.
Long Beach, which has its own independent public health department, will align with L.A. County’s health order. The other city in L.A. County with its own public health department, Pasadena, already recommends that everyone — including the fully vaccinated — wear masks in indoor public settings, and the city is “reviewing options for a mandate,” according to a spokeswoman.
L.A. County’s rise in community transmission has accelerated dramatically since California fully reopened on June 15. For the weeklong period that ended that day, L.A. County averaged 173 new coronavirus cases a day. For the seven-day period that ended Wednesday, the county’s average was 1,077 new cases a day. On Thursday, the county reported 1,537 additional cases.
Countywide, COVID-19 hospitalizations increased over that same time frame — from 223 on June 15 to 452 as of Wednesday. Still, cases and hospitalizations are still more than 93% below what they were at the peak of the winter surge. And deaths remain at historically low levels, at an average of about seven a day.
Although officials don’t expect hospitals to ever be as stressed with COVID-19 patients as they were during the winter surge, it’s still possible the…
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