The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced on Monday that they are now “strongly recommending” that county citizens wear masks indoors in all public areas to fight the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19.
Health officials noted that, despite only 3 COVID-19 deaths and 321 new cases being recorded on Tuesday, almost half of all cases in county are now that of the Delta variant. The mask recommendation applies to all indoor public areas where the vaccination status of people there is unknown and even includes masks for those that have been vaccinated already.
“With increase circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) strongly recommends everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors in public places as a precautionary measure,” said the LA Public Health Department in a statement. “In the week ending June 12, Delta variants comprised of nearly half of all variants sequenced in Los Angeles County. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that Delta variants are now responsible for about one in every five new infections across the country, up from approximately one in every 10 the week before.
“Public Health strongly recommends people wear masks indoors in settings such as grocery or retail stores; theaters and family entertainment centers, and workplaces when you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status. Until we better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection with minimum interruption to routine as all businesses operate without other restrictions, like physical distancing and capacity limits.”
As Delta Variant Circulates, Public Health Recommends Masking Indoors as a Precaution – 3 New Deaths and 259 New Confirmed Cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.
View https://t.co/Fnrbckbfhf pic.twitter.com/16a6fBHByC
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) June 29, 2021
LA County goes against national trend of mask reductions
LA County’s decision to recommend masks once for indoor situations goes largely against the trend nationwide and even statewide. Most states now have few, if any, mask requirements, with California itself rolling back many mask requirements on June 15th. While some federal and state requirements still exist, such as for schools in California and travelling by plane nationwide, the massive drop in COVID-19 cases has spurred reopenings everywhere.
And while the India-originated delta variant has gone up in many states, with some states now estimating between 20% and 50% of all new cases being of the delta variant, rollbacks have not been enacted anywhere else as of Tuesday besides Los Angeles County.
“While the COVID-19 vaccine provides very effective protection preventing hospitalizations and deaths against the Delta variant, the strain is proving to be more transmissible and is expected to become more prevalent,” explained L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer in a statement. “Mask wearing remains an effective tool for reducing transmission, especially indoors where the virus may be easily spread through inhalation of aerosols emitted by an infected person.”
However, the new recommendation by LA County has largely brought negative reactions, even from those that had championed public mask use only a few months ago.
“I know that they are being cautious, but there is such a thing as too cautious,” said Los Angeles nurse Becky Lobo, who had been part of a healthcare worker program to encourage mask wearing for children last year, to the Globe on Tuesday. “Rates have continued to go down, even with this new variant. People who want to be vaccinated are being vaccinated and the rest are being careful or know the risks.”
“I’m all for reducing risk, but this decision is going overboard. Even in areas where the risk is higher, this doesn’t reduce risk at all. First, most public places, like grocery stores, still require masks here. Second, vaccinations in LA County will hit 70% next month, minimalizing any risk. Third, it’s still voluntary. It all doesn’t add up and point to a need for this recommendation. All it is doing is making LA County look bad and making people worry. We’re in a good place, we’re getting better, and now you want to bring these measures back even though rates are still going down with this new variant? Even doctors I know are scoffing at this.”
As of Tuesday, it is unknown how long that the recommendation will stay in place or if the recommendation will be made mandatory at a future date.
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