Los Angeles County will not reinstate an indoor mask mandate Friday after seeing an improvement in COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations, county health officials announced on Thursday.
Los Angeles County Public Health Department Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer had initially warned two weeks ago that the county could move to reinstate an indoor mask mandate at the end of the month as a result of the county moving into the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s “high” community level. However, the county has started to see a decrease in hospital admissions over the past week and will likely be designated within the CDC’s “medium” community level in the coming days.
“Given the declines in case of hospitalization numbers, we’re hopeful that the admission rate over the next few days remains under 10 new admissions per 100,000 residents and LA County is soon officially moved by CDC to the medium community level,” Ferrer said during a press briefing on Thursday. “As I noted last week, any indication that the county would soon be moving to the medium community level would be a good reason to not move forward with universal indoor masking, which is what we are doing today.”
Los Angeles County lifted its indoor mask mandate in most public places in mid-March, though masks are still required on public transportation, in health care settings, emergency shelters and correctional facilities.
County health officials have warned for several weeks that an indoor mask mandate could be a possibility based on rising case rates and hospitalizations, as previously reported by the Los Angeles Times. However, trends in hospital admissions have sloped downward in recent days, prompting optimism from health officials that the latest surge may have peaked.
Looking forward, Ferrer said it’s “hard for us to imagine reinstating universal indoor masking when we’re on this significant of a decline,” but noted that the county could reassess in the future.
“Should we see another big increase in cases and increases in hospital admissions, which we don’t think is likely for the very immediate future because of the trends we’re seeing… We would have to go back and reassess whether we are resetting the clock about needing to remain in high or we’re gonna use some other timetable,” Ferrer said.
To instate a mask mandate, the county previously had to remain in the “high” community level for a period of two weeks. The Public Health Department said Thursday that the county is averaging 9.7 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 a week, which would qualify the region for the medium transmission level, according to the CDC.
The prospect of reinstating the mask mandate in LA County drew scrutiny from some residents and officials, even prompting some city leaders to say they would refuse to enforce a mandate. The Beverly Hills city council decided this week they would not enforce a mandate, as reported by NBC Los Angeles.
Additionally, the City of Pasadena announced Tuesday that it would not be issuing a general indoor mask mandate after seeing COVID-19 case rates decline and hospitalization metrics not increase over a 10-day period.
The City of Long Beach issued a similar announcement Tuesday, saying that the city has been in the CDC’s “medium” transmission level in recent weeks and would align with the California Department Health to urge masking, but not require it.