Los Angeles County remains on track for a mask mandate by the end of July but there’s a glimmer of hope with some previously worrisome numbers flattening out.
The County passed into the CDC’s “high” transmission category last week due to the number of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 and if the area remains in that bracket through July 28, a new indoor mask mandate would take effect on July 29.
“We have tried to ask people to make their own decisions about masking and go ahead and mask so that we could slow down transmission and it hasn’t been very successful,” said Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer about the need for mask rules.
She said Los Angeles County would implement the mandate per CDC guidelines to protect vulnerable residents including those in nursing homes, homeless shelters or essential workers who face more danger than the general population but there’s a slim chance the County could avoid mandatory masking if case metrics dramatically declined in the very short term. Overall case counts have started to plateau and if that trend turned into a decline, it might give officials pause.
“If we start seeing a steep decline in our numbers next week, because we know that hospitalizations are this lagging indicator, we aren’t likely to be moving too quickly on universal indoor masking because if our cases really start a steep decline, it’s likely that a couple of weeks from now our hospitalizations will also decline and you all are looking at the same data. You could see we’re on the cusp between medium and high. It isn’t gonna take much to move us back into that medium community level if we can get our case numbers to go lower.”
However, Ferrer said officials would proceed as if a mandate will happen as the history of case counts suggest dips may occur without starting a full trend.
“You can see here this sign of plateauing cases the past week,” she said. “We do hope this continues. I do want to note, however, that over the past two months, we have seen some small dips that were then followed by additional increases. So it does make sense for us to continue to be cautious.”
Ferrer said even more infectious variants have not been found in large numbers locally and while they are concerning for their ability to reinfect people, they do not pose a current threat to local health.
“We should note that new sub-lineage of Omicron that’s called Ba.2.75 which has been spreading primarily in India and which also has the ability to cause reinfections and it’s very transmissible has increased just slightly in the past week in the United States. Hopefully, it will not emerge as a full concern. So far, there have been 17 cases detected in the states and five in California. With one case in LA County that we reported last week,” she said.
Ferrer reiterated that if masks are required again, they should be viewed as a temporary measure that will allow a majority of residents to continue living relatively normal lives.
“What we’ve learned over the course of the pandemic is that this is a dangerous virus,” she said. “We benefit enormously from all the effective tools at hand and they allow most of us fully live our lives. We travel we go to work we go to parties, we enjoy concerts, plays in sporting events, and we get together freely with those we love. Our transmission is really high. We would be foolish to be complacent and not layer in additional protections that help those most vulnerable also fully live their lives.”