cases: County officials are keeping mask mandates in place for local transit systems. Courtesy image

A new LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) order issued on Thursday afternoon reaffirmed the County’s mask mandate on transit and inside transit hubs. The order stipulates masks must continue to be worn aboard trains, in stations and airport terminals, and in rideshare vehicles.

“Our public health team will work with transportation providers and transportation hubs over the next few days to ensure that they’re aware of the continued requirements for masking on public transit and indoor transportation hubs and that they’re able to effectively communicate this information to their customers,” DPH Director Barbara Ferrer said during a Thursday COVID-19 briefing live streamed by DPH.

The current health order — which officially went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, April 22 — was “revised to continue to require masks in all public transit within the County, such as, commuter trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares, and indoor transportation hubs, such as, airport terminals, bus, train and subway stations, marina or port stations” for at least 30 days, unless the CDC states that it is safe to go without or the County’s community transmission level drops to “moderate.”

Ferrer said the order was in support of current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Following the federal mandate being lifted, transit systems around the country began to announce their own mask rules would be suspended, including both the Big Blue Bus and LA Metro systems, which announced the move to drop masking on Wednesday.

That suspension will now be superseded by the new DPH order.

“Effective April 22, 2022, Big Blue Bus customers and Operators will be required to wear a face covering on board until further notice, due to a new health order issued by @lapublichealth. Thanks for your patience and understanding,” Big Blue Bus tweeted on Thursday afternoon following the DPH announcement.

“Transportation settings are often crowded with limited and inadequate ventilation, and deemed to be higher risk settings for virus transmission,” Ferrer said Thursday. “Traveling on public conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 because it brings people in close contact with others often for long periods of time and often in crowded settings. When people wear a welding mask or respirator and indoor travel or public transportation settings, they protect themselves and those around them and they help keep travel and public transportation safer for everyone.”

Ferrer warned that COVID-19 cases were steadily increasing in LA County, with 2,123 new cases of COVID-19 recorded within LA County on Thursday. 

“Although our current seven-day average of daily cases … are lower than they were in the winter surge, you can clearly see … they’ve been increasing steadily since the end of March,” Ferrer said during a slide presentation of a graph showing the seven-day averages for daily cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Ferrer later added, “While from day to day, the rate of increase is relatively low … the seven-day average number of daily cases is now more than twice what the average was on March 24, when the number of daily cases dipped to about 614 cases a day.”

Ferrer pointed out that hospitalizations and deaths were continuing to remain low, not rising in line with the consistent increase in cases reported.

Despite the rules whiplash, the majority of LA Metro riders on Expo “E” Line trains in and out of Santa Monica on Wednesday and Thursday continued to don masks, according to an informal survey of riders recorded by the Daily Press.