Los Angeles County said Thursday that residents will be required to wear masks indoors once more, regardless of vaccination status, amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.
The new ordinance will go into effect late Saturday night and comes just a month after California dropped most restrictions for vaccinated people and restarted its economy.
“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late given what we’re seeing now,” Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, said during a news briefing. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
Previously, those who were fully vaccinated were allowed to remove their masks across California, but health officials said the new measures would help stanch the spread of the delta strain. The orders will be in place for the foreseeable future, although Davis stressed that more restrictions could be put in place should case numbers begin to skyrocket.
“Wearing a mask indoors with others reduces the risk of both getting & transmitting the virus,” Los Angeles Public Health wrote on Twitter. “We’re requiring masking for everyone while indoors at public settings & businesses, regardless of vaccination status so that we can stop the increased level of transmission we’re seeing.”
In late June, public health officials in Los Angeles urged residents to wear masks once more in public spaces, citing the spread of the delta strain, which has since become the dominant variant of COVID-19 in the United States.
Los Angeles County is averaging more than 1,000 new cases a day, a sharp increase from the average of 173 cases per day when the state was still under virus restrictions in mid-June. The Los Angeles Times notes, however, that cases and hospitalizations are more than 93% lower than they were at the height of the pandemic, and deaths are at low levels.
Health officials have stressed that even amid the surge in cases linked to the delta variant, vaccines remain the best method to combat serious illness and death. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has continued to urge Americans to get vaccinated, and figures show that almost all of the nation’s COVID-19 deaths are among people who remain unvaccinated.
About 51% of California’s population has been fully vaccinated.
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