The Los Angeles County sheriff has announced his department won’t enforce the county Department of Public Health’s reinstated indoor mask mandate as COVID-19 cases soar in the area, falsely claiming it’s “not backed by science.”
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement Friday that he “will not expend our limited resources” to enforce the new order.
“Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines,” he added.
The new local mandate is not a contradiction of CDC policy.
The CDC does not currently recommend that vaccinated individuals wear masks indoors — except where required by law. As cases of the dangerous and highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 soar, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House press briefing Friday that localities experiencing increases in cases may consider reinstating indoor mask mandates to protect against the disease. The World Health Organization still urges fully vaccinated people to wear masks.
Villanueva acknowledged the county health department’s legal right to enforce its order. However, he urged the agency to “work collaboratively with ... law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.” He also called for “voluntary” compliance with the order.
California relaxed health restrictions last month, but after the number of new COVID-19 cases climbed in the Los Angeles area, public health officials announced Thursday that all county residents, regardless of vaccination status, are now required to wear a mask while indoors (as of Saturday).
“The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and the increase in hospitalizations signals immediate action must be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19,” county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a statement. “Otherwise, we may quickly see more devastating illness and death among the millions of residents.”
The county recorded 1,902 new COVID-19 cases and six deaths on Friday alone. On Saturday it reported 1,827 new cases and 11 deaths. The numbers were the highest daily total the region has seen in months, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Walensky warned Friday that the new upsurge in cases is a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” roaring through areas with low vaccination rates. Only 52% of the more than 10 million residents of Los Angeles County — the most populous county in the nation — have been fully vaccinated. Nearly 4 million people there have not been vaccinated, including 1.3 million children under the age of 12.
New coronavirus cases among vaccinated residents are low, but are still a concern, noted county officials. There have have been a total of 4,122 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday of those fully vaccinated.