Los Angeles County will consider the future of indoor mask rules Tuesday as mandates are relaxed in California and throughout the United States.
Beginning Tuesday, California lifted its requirement that unvaccinated people wear masks in most indoor settings — joining the vaccinated population that had its mandate lifted two weeks ago. But face coverings are still strongly recommended indoors. Masks continue to be required for everyone at indoor settings including health care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
But regardless of the state’s easing of mask rules, Los Angeles County continues to impose an indoor mask-wearing mandate for everyone in most locations — a rule that has come under increasing criticism from two members of the county Board of Supervisors. The county recently eased its requirement, allowing vaccinated people to remove their masks in indoor locations where all patrons are checked for either a COVID vaccination or a recent negative test.
The board’s regular Tuesday meeting is scheduled for 9:30 am
According to the county Department of Public Health, the agency “will review any additional state guidance changes and provide an update on additional modifications to LA County safety measures during (Tuesday’s) Board of Supervisors meeting.”
There has been a growing push by two county supervisors for an end to the county’s mask-wearing mandate. Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn
have both said the county should align its rules fully with the state to avoid confusion and frustration among residents.
Barger on Monday hailed the state’s announcement that it is easing masking rules, and called again for an end to the county requirement.
“During (Tuesday’s) LA County Board of Supervisors meeting, our county’s public health director has committed to articulating a plan for how LA County will adjust its masking mandates and restrictions,” Barger said in a statement. “I look forward to that discussion and will continue to call for clarity and consistency with state and federal guidelines. “It’s clear to me that, as the Omicron surge continues to decrease in LA County, we need to implement flexible COVID-19 infection control policies and move away from rigid approaches. The time for compulsory masking mandates has come to an end.”
On Friday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new standards that rely largely on COVID hospital numbers to govern whether masks should be worn. Those new standards — while resulting in mask recommendations being lifted for much of the country, still classified Los Angeles and San Diego counties as having “high” virus activity and urged that people continue to wear masks.
Under the new CDC guidance, both Orange and Riverside counties are in the medium category. The federal guidance does not require mask wearing.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said that the county’s indoor mask-wearing rule would remain in place until the following standards are met
- The county’s level of COVID transmission rate falls to the moderate level as defined by the CDC and remains there for two weeks, or
- COVID vaccines have been available to residents under age 5 for at least eight weeks, and
- No emerging COVID “variants of concern” have been identified tha could spark another surge in cases.
According to Ferrer, reaching the CDC’s “moderate” level of transmission requires the county to have a seven-day cumulative infection rate of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. Ferrer said that is expected to happen by March 16, meaning the indoor mask mandate would be completely lifted by March 30.
Los Angeles County lifted its outdoor mask mandate for large event venues, schools and child care centers on Feb. 16.
The state announced Monday that its indoor mask-wearing mandate for school campuses will expire at 11:59 pm March 11. Los Angeles County health officials said they will align with the state and lift their local school mask mandate on that date.
However, it’s still unclear if the Los Angeles Unified School District will lift the mandate on that schedule. The LAUSD issued a statement late Monday saying only that the district would be monitoring COVID rates. But the district did not commit to lifting the mask mandate on March 12.