LA County To Drop Indoor Mask Mandate On March 4
Los Angeles County will drop its indoor mask mandate on Friday, after new federal data indicates area hospitals are no longer under high strain. Masks will no longer be required — whether or not you’re vaccinated — in indoor settings such as stores, bars and restaurants.
“I'm pleased to share that as of today, the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] has assigned L.A. County to the low community risk level,” county health director Barbara Ferrer said at her weekly press briefing on Thursday.
In addition to Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties are now in the "low" risk category.
While L.A. County is dropping its mask requirement, Ferrer added: “We’re strongly recommending that people continue to wear masks indoors. It’s always a good idea, especially when you’re in the transition part of the pandemic, as we are now, to be cautious.”
We’re strongly recommending that people continue to wear masks indoors. It’s always a good idea ... to be cautious.
Ferrer emphasized you can always wear a mask if it makes you feel safer or if you’re at high risk. And regardless of local conditions, people should mask if they have COVID symptoms or have tested positive or been exposed to someone with COVID.
“COVID-19 is a deadly virus. It's still with us,” Ferrer said. “It ebbs and flows, and we need to take advantage of the good times that we're about to be in, where we really are seeing much less risk across the board for so many, but then be prepared, should there be a new variant of concern or we experience another surge.”
The CDC’s new guidelines for assessing community risk, released Feb. 25, weigh hospitalizations for COVID-19 and the proportion of beds occupied by patients with the virus in local hospitals more heavily than rates of new infections alone. Previously the agency had calculated a county’s risk level based on the number of new cases and test positivity.
“Today we're reporting about 300 fewer hospitalizations than last Thursday, with 852 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19,” Ferrer said.
The move to ease up on masking comes after L.A. County’s declining hospitalizations and cases indicate the omicron surge is continuing to wane, and puts the county in line with the state, which dropped the indoor mask mandate in February.
L.A. County’s seven-day average case rate has also declined to 17 new cases per 100,000 residents, and the average test positivity in the last week dropped to 1.2% — meaning that one out of every 80 test results reported to the health department were positive. At the beginning of the year it was one-in-four.
“The average number of daily new cases reported over the past seven days has declined to about 1,700 new cases, down from about 2,400 cases the week before,” Ferrer said. “Daily reported deaths have stayed consistent at an average of about 55 deaths per day over the past two weeks.”
The county’s indoor mask mandate was put in place last July, when cases of the delta variant began to surge.
Ferrer said individual businesses can still decide for themselves if they will require employees and customers to wear masks.
Employers are also required to offer high grade masks such as N95s or surgical masks for employees who want them.
Where Mask Mandates Remain In Place
Masks must still be worn in high risk places such as public transit, and the federal government requires everyone on planes to wear a mask. They are still required in emergency shelters, doctor’s offices and hospitals, homeless shelters and prisons, and long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.
They are also required in California schools and childcare facilities until March 12 — though LAUSD is keeping masks for the rest of the school year.
Keep Your Vaccine Verification Handy
Some vaccine verification rules will also ease. Ferrer said people attending outdoor mega events will no longer be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test, and vaccine verification will no longer be required to be indoors at bars, nightclubs, wineries, breweries and lounges.
For now, you’ll still have to show vaccine verification to get into bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses in the cities of L.A. and West Hollywood, which have their own more stringent rules.
A mandate from the state requires vaccine verification or a recent negative test at indoor mega events with more than 1,000 people, such as concerts and NBA games. Vaccination verification also is required for healthcare workers and employees at nursing homes.