Los Angeles County dropped their indoor mask mandate on Friday, becoming one of the final counties in both California and the country to remove it.
Los Angeles County officials have been some of the most hesitant officials in the country for rescinding their COVID-19 masking, vaccination, and proof of vaccination requirements. California dropped the indoor masking requirements mid-February, but L.A. health officials remained adamant that masking should still be in place due to the county’s higher population and more higher risk areas. School officials also avoided aligning with the state on removing masking policies until the state announced the end to them beginning on March 12th.
However, revised CDC guidelines that move LA Country from the high virus activity category to the low category, COVID-19 cases bottoming out to where they were before the Omicron surge, and increased pressure from county citizens and state officials to remove the indoor masking mandates convinced the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to issue an updated health order on Wednesday.
According to the order, those in LA County will no longer have to wear masks in most locations regardless of vaccination status. Instead, it will be highly recommended for those places.
“As we’ve emphasized throughout the pandemic, masks are one of the easiest things we can do to prevent COVID-19 transmission and provide strong protection to the person wearing them as well as to the people around them,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer earlier this week. “We, along with the state and CDC, continue to urge individuals — regardless of their vaccination status — to keep their masks on in public indoor settings until there’s less risk for those most vulnerable.”
Only high-risk areas will be exceptions to the mask rule, with places such as major transportation centers such as airports, correctional facilities, health care facilities, and homeless shelters still requiring masks. K-12 schools will also be requiring them through March 12th.
Vaccine and test rules will also be relaxed for outdoor mega events, with rules no longer being in place for large sporting events or concerts in the county. Vaccine requirements will also be relaxed to an extent for bars, nightclubs, an other similar establishments. Large indoor mega-events, such as those in arenas, will continue vaccine and test verification for the time being, with city measures on proof of vaccination, such as those in place in LA, still having preeminence over the county revision.
City measures will also trump masking guidelines, with some Los Angeles city places, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, keeping indoor masking in place for now. In the case of the LAUSD, indoor masks are likely to stick around until the end of the school year.
Despite the limitations of the new order, many Los Angeles businesses that began the new masking policy have noticed a mostly positive response on Friday.
“Days not over, but the breakfast and lunch crowds have been very appreciative of it,” said Roberto Lowe, a restaurant co-owner in the county on Friday to the Globe. “It’s coming down to a few types of reactions. Some come in wearing masks look around and see the sign we post, say ‘Oh,’ then take off their mask. Some stroll in without it, just fine. A lot of people are hesitant and then say to our waitstaff that it feels so odd to be doing this. Some brag about how they’ve already been doing this. And then some remained masked as much as possible because they still didn’t believe it was safe. And hey, they have the right to do what they want there.”
“There haven’t been any freak outs or people rudely yelling for others to put on or take off masks. Everyone’s just rolled with it their own way not at the expense of others. I’m glad to see this ended with virtually no drama rather than with a bang.”
Other businesses reported the same thing happening.
“We have some people coming in wearing masks for the matinees, but generally the whole attitude has been ‘pleasantly surprised’,” said Meghan O’Rourke, a movie theater manager, to the Globe. “The real look will be tonight when everyone goes out on a Friday night to see a movie. But right now in the afternoon, we are seeing a lot more people come in for the early screenings. End of the mandate brought about three times the number of people coming in. We’ve had a few people insist on wearing masks still, but that’s really about it.”
“I suspect that’s how it will be for awhile, that some will still wear masks regardless even if they aren’t immunocompromised or something like that. It’s not big deal. People have been masking for two years now in places like this and need time to adjust.”
More state, county, and local mask and vaccine policies are expected to be removed in the coming weeks as COVID-19 rates remain low.