Los Angeles County, California, stated Thursday that it will reintroduce indoor mask regulations in the face of an increase of COVID-19 cases.
The renewed mandate will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday and will require that all residents wear masks while indoors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against the virus.
The ruling allows for indoor dining to continue, but patrons must wear masks while not eating or drinking, and certain additional exceptions will be in place, similar to past mask mandates.
Los Angeles County health officer Dr. Muntu Davis called the new mandate a “all-hands-on-deck moment” as the county recorded 1,537 new cases on Thursday, following a weekly average of 1,077 new cases each day.
“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 said.
Davis added that the new order will remain in place “until we begin to see improvements” in combatting community transmission.
Except for Long Beach and Pasadena, which have their own independent health departments, the rule will apply throughout the county.
Officials in both towns claimed they had already advised citizens to wear masks indoors, and a Pasadena city spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that officials were “reviewing options for a mandate.”
California eliminated statewide business restrictions on June 15 after meeting targets for vaccination availability and hospitalisation rates.
In 45 states, 19 cases have increased by at least 10% from the previous week as the highly contagious Delta virus has become more prevalent.
Since late June, case averages in Orange, San Diego, and San Bernadino counties have more than doubled, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Los Angeles, San Bernadino, San Diego, and Riverside counties to have “substantial” community transmission – the second worst on the agency’s four-tier scale.
Since the latest outbreak, officials in Sacramento and Yolo counties have issued similar recommendations for individuals to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status, but neither has made it mandatory.
The California Department of Public Health said it has not changed its guidance on face coverings since lifting its mandate but supports individual local health departments in implementing stricter policies “based on the conditions in their community.”
“Vaccines remain the best protection against COVID-19, including the highly infectious Delta variant,” state health officials told the Los Angeles Times. “We urge all eligible to get vaccinated, as it is the most important thing we can do to stop the spread of the virus.”