People in Los Angeles County, California, will again be required to wear masks indoors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, starting this weekend.
The order by LA County officials, which will go into effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m., was issued as the number of cases surges and the more contagious delta variant runs rampant.
“Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so they can stop the trends and level of transmission we’re currently seeing,” said LA County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis, according to KTLA.
“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,” Davis continued.
California’s masking requirement ended on June 15 when the state adopted guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stated individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks either indoors or outdoors in most circumstances.
After state health officials announced in May the statewide mask mandate would expire, Los Angeles County’s public health director Barbara Ferrer said the county would comply with the state’s masking rules.
The county’s course reversal began in late June when it began strongly recommending masks for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated in response to increased positive cases. Health officials cited a need to “better understand how and to who the delta variant is spreading,” referring to an infectious mutation of the coronavirus first detected in India.
On Tuesday, officials announced a 700% month-over-month increase in test positivity, which is the percentage of total tests administered that come back positive. The county’s five-day average of new cases was 1,095 on July 13, compared to 201 on June 13.
“A significant number of unvaccinated people indoors, with a highly contagious Delta variant circulating, makes it easy for this variant to be transmitted at higher rates,” Ferrer said in a July 13 news release before the mandate was announced.
The percentage of the total U.S. population fully vaccinated as of Thursday stood at 48.3%, according to CDC data, with 55.8% having received at least one vaccine dose.
Among the Los Angeles County population, 69.3% of those eligible have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 61% is fully vaccinated, according to county data.
Los Angeles County, the most populous in the country with roughly 10 million residents, leads the United States in total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and confirmed deaths due to the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.