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LA County Health Officials Face Pressure To Ease Indoor Mask Rules

A masked person walks into a grocery store, past a sign instructing everyone entering to wear a mask.
Covid vaccines remain extremely effective against the worst outcomes of the disease — hospitalization and death.
(Chris Delmas
AFP via Getty Images)
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San Francisco’s mask mandate remains in place, but starting Feb. 1 the rules become less stringent for residents and visitors who are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and booster shot. The move is putting pressure on Los Angeles County health officials to ease indoor masking rules.

San Francisco office workers, gym members and people in so-called “stable cohorts” won’t have to mask up indoors if they have their coronavirus shots. More than 82% of all San Francisco residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 69% in L.A. County.

In L.A. County, the mask rules are unchanged — everyone over the age of two must wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

L.A.’s mask mandate will only change if cases, hospitalizations and transmission numbers drop and maintain a low benchmark under county criteria put in place last fall.

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“Really, what drives a lot of it is getting transmission down to a very low level,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer at a recent press conference.

“We're going to have to look at what's going on in our healthcare system, but also note that if you have a new variant of concern that's evading vaccine protections, you're going to want to make sure that those masks are something that we're layering in for protection,” Ferrer said.

County health officials are facing pressure to ease the indoor mask mandate from supervisor Kathryn Barger, who released a statement Monday saying, in part, “I strongly believe individuals should be allowed to make an informed choice about whether to mask up or not. I hope state and local health leaders take this into consideration and re-evaluate indoor and school masking mandates now.”

L.A. County’s new COVID cases and hospitalizations are falling as the omicron surge appears to be declining. Over the past week, the county has averaged more than 19,000 new cases daily.