Vaccines: Despite the roll out of vaccines, local health rules will keep mask mandates in place. Courtesy photo

While fully vaccinated Angelenos may be eager to tear off their masks following the CDC’s updated guidelines, they will have to remain patient for now.

Following the State’s recommendation, L.A. County will not update its mask requirements until June 15 in order to give a greater proportion of the population time to get vaccinated.

This means that masks are still required for everyone in indoor workplaces, on public transportation, in retail and business establishments. Fully vaccinated people are allowed to shed their mask outdoors, but must put them back on if they enter a crowded situation.

Once L.A. County aligns with the CDC’s new guidelines, fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed to resume almost all indoor and outdoor activities without masking or social distancing.

Currently, there is no system in place for establishments to easily differentiate between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. Additionally, while 70 percent of eligible Santa Monicans have received at least one vaccine dose, there are many pockets of LA where this rate is well below 50 percent.

For all both of these reasons mask mandates will remain in place in the immediate future.

“It’s important to note that the CDC announcement last week was not meant to eliminate current safety modifications at local and state levels,” said County Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “It is important to do everything we know how to do to prevent transmission with almost 56 percent of LA County residents not yet fully vaccinated.”

The four week wait is designed to boost community immunity in the hopes that relaxed mask regulations will not cause a rise in cases. However, the biggest hurdle the County faces in safely phasing out masks may not be more time to increase immunity, but a dwindling demand for the vaccine.

Vaccine rates are decreasing even as access increases and County officials are urgently trying to reverse this trend. County vaccination sites only administered 370,000 doses last week, compared to over 530,000 doses a week at the end of April.

“Those who have either held off on getting vaccinated or have not had the opportunity, now is your opportunity and I strongly recommend you do so before June 15,” said County Supervisor Hilda Solis. “Luckily it’s never been easier to get vaccinated. We have well over 700 sites across the County.”

One hopeful sign is the recent vaccination of youth age 12 to 15, who became eligible for the Pfizer vaccine last Thursday.

“We’re delighted to see a great turnout among teens 12 to 15 years old late last week and over the weekend,” said Ferrer. “As of the end of the day on Friday night almost 16,000 12 to 15 year olds had been vaccinated.”

All teens under 18 years old are required to either be accompanied by their parents or bring a signed consent form to their appointment. Ferrer said parents seeking information about vaccinating their teen should visit VaccinateLACounty.com for more guidance.

Clara@smdp.com