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LA County To End Indoor Mask Mandate Friday. Why You Might Still Want To Mask Up

Hands in a range of skin tones throw masks in the air.
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Mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions are falling across the country, including here in Southern California.

L.A. County announced Wednesday that the county is lifting its indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, on Friday. County health officials said they're doing so "in anticipation of L.A. County moving into medium or low risk according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Community Level designation this Thursday."

Here's the specific instruction:

Under this modified order, indoor masking will be strongly recommended, but not required, for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, except in high-risk settings where federal and state regulations continue to require masking, including everyone using public transit and all those in emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional and detention facilities, homeless shelters, and long-term care facilities. At all sites where masking indoors is no longer mandatory, employers will be required to offer, for voluntary use, medical grade masks and respirators to employees working indoors in close contact with other workers and/or customers.
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Speaking before the new order was announced, Dr. Sam Torbati, co-chair of the emergency medicine department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said these decisions are based on a better understanding of how the virus works and what the risk of community spread now is.

As COVID-19 precautions ease, he and other health professionals are reminding us it's now up to individuals to protect themselves.

"I think we're getting to a point where mandates and oversight from city and state is going to calm down," Torbati said, "and people will need to make better choices themselves."

Torbati, who was interviewed on our public affairs show AirTalk, which airs on 89.3 KPCC, is among medical experts who are cautioning that no mask mandate doesn't mean that masks are no longer needed or beneficial.

His advice to older people and others at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is to keep wearing a mask in public settings for the time being — especially in places where it's unclear whether everyone's been vaccinated.

You might reasonably wonder if what's being called "one-way masking" will do anything to protect you, if everyone around you is going maskless. Our friends at NPR took a deeper look at that question and had this advice:

If you plan to continue wearing a mask, you can still get substantial protection as the sole mask-wearer — what's being called "one-way masking" — if you do it right.

1. Pick the best mask
2. Figure out how risky a situation could be
3. Consider how experts are weighing the risks
4. Give yourself a pep talk about that inevitable awkward feeling when you're one of the only masked people

What questions do you have about Southern California?