With rapidly rising COVID-19 infections, LA County eyes return to indoor mask mandate

A man wears his mask as he walks past a sign posted on a storefront reminding people to wear masks, February 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, - Los Angeles is ending its indoor mask mandate on February 25 for people fully vaccinated and can show proof.  Wearing a mask indoors remains reserved for unvaccinated people and failing to justify a negative test.  (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

A man wears his mask as he walks past a sign posted on a storefront reminding people to wear masks, February 25, 2022 in Los Angeles, – Los Angeles is ending its indoor mask mandate on February 25 for people fully vaccinated and can show proof. Wearing a mask indoors remains reserved for unvaccinated people and failing to justify a negative test. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN/AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

Starting this week, Los Angeles County residents may be required to wear face masks in public buildings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

In the past three days alone, 10,089 new cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the county along with 29 deaths, according to Los Angeles Public Health.

Last week, the COVID-19 infection rate for LA County was 185 cases per 100,000 people, a level designated as “medium.” If it exceeds 200 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a “high” level of transmission, the mask obligation will automatically come back into force.

“There’s this common line of thinking that the pandemic is over and COVID is no longer of concern, but these numbers clearly demonstrate that COVID is still with us,” said County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, during a press conference Thursday.

With “medium” transmission rates, health authorities “strongly recommend” but do not require wearing a mask indoors, although masks are still mandatory in health facilities.

When LA County considered reinstating a mask mandate in July, Ferrer said it could include “all indoor spaces, including shared office spaces, manufacturing facilities, retail stores and when shopping.” ‘indoor events’.

This announcement was not well received, and several municipalities in the Los Angeles area announced that they would not comply with the mandate.

LOS ANGELES, CA – September 22: Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced Friday that Los Angeles County will end its local health ordinance requiring face coverings on public transportation or inside transportation hubs, such as airports.  February 22, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.  (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

LOS ANGELES, CA – September 22: Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer announced Friday that Los Angeles County will end its local health ordinance requiring face coverings on public transportation or inside transportation hubs, such as airports. February 22, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

Social media users have also spoken out against the latest warnings that a mask mandate could soon be reimposed.

“If LA County moves forward with another mask mandate, that will truly be the definition of insanity,” tweeted Kevin Kileya Republican elected to Congress from Northern California.

Andy Kleinman, another Twitter user said: “I spent a week in Qatar surrounded by thousands of people from all over the world, and saw almost zero masks. I came back to Los Angeles and they are suggesting a mandatory indoor mask mandate again. They want that we live in fear. It’s crazy.

Top Los Angeles health officials support the effectiveness of masking in reducing the spread of COVID-19 and continue to urge citizens to stay up to date on vaccination against the virus which has so far killed more than 34,213 people in the county and over 1 million people nationwide.

LOS ANGELES, CA - December 02: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health nurse Yessica Carrillo administers a COVID-19 booster to Miguel Torres during Los Angeles Comic Con at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, December 2, 2022. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has partnered with Los Angeles Comic Con to offer guests and staff tickets to free vaccinations of both the updated COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccine.  (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CA – December 02: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health nurse Yessica Carrillo administers a COVID-19 booster to Miguel Torres during Los Angeles Comic Con at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Friday, December 2, 2022. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has partnered with Los Angeles Comic Con to offer guests and staff tickets to free vaccinations of both the updated COVID-19 booster and the flu vaccine. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

In September, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention approved a new booster targeting both the original strain of the virus and the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants. Since then, two new subvariants – BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 – have become the dominant strains in the United States. The vaccine makers say their boosters also work against the BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subvariants.

Ferrer, meanwhile, says she understands a return to a mask mandate won’t be popular with many audiences, but insists it may be necessary anyway.

“Given both the increase in hospitalizations and the lack of certainty about the winter trajectory of COVID-19, the pursuit of certain common-sense mitigation strategies that we know work to limit transmission and disease, including masking and updating vaccines and boosters, remains a very sensible approach,” Ferrer added during his Thursday press conference.

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