Los Angeles County reissues mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

County reports more than 1,000 new cases a day for the past week

AS a response to the mounting coronavirus cases, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will restore the mask mandate that requires masks to be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status, the department said on Thursday, July 15.

The new mandate will come into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, July 17.

“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Dr. Muntu Davis said at Thursday’s press briefing. “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.”

The announcement was made exactly one month after California dropped its statewide mask mandate that allowed vaccinated people to discontinue wearing masks in most public spaces.

On Thursday the county reported 1,537 new positive cases — an 83% increase — and three deaths with hospitalizations jumping from 406 on Wednesday to 452 on Thursday. The positivity rate is currently at around 3.4%, a sharp increase from last month’s rate, 0.5%, the county reported.

Additionally, the five-day positive case average on June 13 was 201. By Tuesday, July 13, that number surged to 1,095, a 500% increase in just one month, according to a news release from LA County Public Health.

Officials were unclear over how long this new mandate will take place. Davis said that the county expects “to keep this order in place until we begin to see improvements.”

As previously reported in the Asian Journal, the onset and rapid circulation of the so-called Delta variant continues to spread across the country. The increase comes after months of decline in positive COVID-19 cases, which is largely due to the increased availability of vaccines.

Davis acknowledged that some residents may be upset with the reinstitution of the mask mandate, but reminded residents that “we’re in a very different situation. This is not the same as what it was [on] June 15.”

“We took a chance in terms of lifting the physical distancing requirements as well as the capacity limits,” Davis shared. “We changed masking at the time. We felt it was a reasonable thing to do given the level of community transmission that we had at the moment. But this is not the same situation.”

Davis said that the county’s No. 1 fear is that deaths will mount as hospitalization rates increase. He added that the pandemic persists in the county by unvaccinated residents and low vaccination rates in communities where transmission is spreading fastest.
As of press time, there are “slightly under 4 million LA County residents [who] are not vaccinated,” Davis said.

According to Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of LA County Department of Health Services, all COVID-19 patients that have been admitted to hospitals recently were all either unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

“To date, we have not had a patient admitted to a DHS hospital who has been fully vaccinated with either the J&J, Pfizer or Moderna vaccine,” said Ghaly on Tuesday, July 13. “Every single patient that we’ve admitted for COVID has been not yet fully vaccinated.”
A rising number of cases come from residents under 50 years old.

Originally the June 15 lifting of the mask mandate applied to vaccinated people, and officials urged nonvaccinated people to continue wearing masks. But with the reopening of businesses and nightlife venues, the increased socialization has exacerbated the growing spread of the far-more-contagious delta variant.

L.A. County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said this week that the delta variant — the most dominant COVID variant in California — coupled with increased gatherings of people regardless of vaccination status has contributed to the rapid spread.

“Because of increased intermingling and summer social activities and the circulation of more variants of concern like the highly transmissible Delta variant, Public Health continues to caution there is increased risk of COVID-19 infection for people who aren’t fully vaccinated,” LA County Public Health wrote in a statement.

LA County Public Health is also offering vaccinations at home to residents who may be immunocompromised or cannot leave home for health reasons. The department’s Vaccine Call Center can be reached at 833-540-0473 or at vaccinatelacounty.com.

Klarize Medenilla

Klarize Medenilla is a staff writer and reporter for the Asian Journal. You can reach her at [email protected].

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