Los Angeles County health officials indicated to the Los Angels County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday that the County would reverse long-held policies and end their indoor mask wearing mandate, including for those unvaccinated, this coming Friday.
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, 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 to come into effect Friday.
LA County will no long require masks for the unvaccinated in most indoor settings, with the exceptions being healthcare facilities and other high risk areas.
This announcement was issued despite attendees, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and celebrities who attended the recent Super Bowl held in Los Angeles 10 days ago, ignoring county rules anyway.
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.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer stressed on Tuesday that masks will still be highly recommended with the new revisions in place, mirroring what state health officials have said about the dropping of the mask requirement.
“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,” Ferrer said. “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.”
Lawmakers, especially County Supervisors, applauded the end of the mandates but cautioned that masks may still be needed in the future if another variant flareup occurs.
“I think it’s welcome news to a lot of residents in our county, and I think it’s going to make our policies less confusing and easier to follow,” Supervisor Janice Hahn said on Tuesday.
Marta Ortega, a local organizer who helped bring about protests against the mandates, said in a Globe interview that many Angelinos “had been wanting this a long time. This was costing us so much and were in place after the health risks were gone. We need things to get back to normal, and this is a good step to that.”
More state, county, and local mask and vaccine policies are expected to be removed in the coming weeks as COVID-19 rates remain low.
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