Smiles Everyone! L.A. Health Authorities Back Down on Mask Mandate

Public health officials had been warning they might reinstate forced indoor public masking on Friday, but it’s not happening—for now

Los Angeles public health officials announced Thursday that they would not be going ahead with a threatened reinstatement of the indoor public masking mandate that has been hanging over the county for the last two weeks.

L.A. first hit the  “high” level of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s three-tier assessment rating of community COVID risk on July 14, putting the county at risk of a reissued mask mandate if it remained there for two weeks—meaning that the earliest any mandate could have gone into effect was July 29.

To reach the high community risk level—which is the CDC’s highest level—L.A. County first had to observe at least 10 new weekly COVID-positive hospitalizations for every 100,000 residents. Los Angeles remains at the high risk level, according to CDC standards, but Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer now says her agency will eye the numbers a bit more before issuing any new mask mandate.

“Since most of our local data trends are declining, we will take a closer look at the hospital admission rate for a more precise sense of where we might be heading,” Ferrer said Thursday, KTLA reports.

As of Thursday afternoon, according to the Los Angeles Times, L.A. County was averaging about 6,100 coronavirus cases a day over the previous week, down 9 percent from the prior week’s average of 6,700 cases a day. On a per-capita basis, the latest rate is 425 cases a week for every 100,000 residents. A case rate of 100 or more is considered high.

The state Department of Public Health estimated that the effective transmission rate in L.A. County was 0.98 as of Thursday, indicating that the spread of COVID-19 has likely stabilized.

Perhaps more impressive than those numbers for local mandate deciders was how many people and and cities across the county already made it clear that they would not tolerate another mandate, regardless of what any health officials decided.

So far this week, Beverly Hills let it be known that it will not be enforcing any required face-covering, and even L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger issued a public statement expressing skepticism that bringing back the mandate would curb the spread, saying that a recent study “concluded it had no significant impact in comparison to its surrounding counties that did not impose a masking mandate.”

El Segundo followed suit on Wednesday, with Mayor Drew Boyles stating, “My City Council colleagues and I strongly believe the decision to wear a mask should be the choice of the individual and should not be imposed by L.A. County.”

Barger said she was “pleased” the compelled masking was not coming back, KTLA reports.

“I’m hopeful that we will now be able to move on from this heightened focus on masking mandates to what really matters—focusing on promoting the efficacy of vaccines and boosters, improving access to COVID-19 treatments, and continuing to educate our County’s residents on the benefits of masking,” Barger said. “I am comfortable leaving this decision in the public’s very capable hands.”

The CDC releases updated community level assessments every Thursday.

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