A January 5th Indoor Mask Mandate prediction by the LA County Department of Public Health passed by on Thursday, with many now doubtful that such a mandate could return as COVID-19 rates in the County have stabilized in the past month.
New statistics released by the Los Angeles County Department of Health on Thursday project that, with current COVID-19 case rate growth and more and more hospital beds being taken by COVID-19 patients, the County is now on track to bring back a County-wide indoor mask mandate if rates don’t go down this month.
Since the repeal of state and local indoor mask mandates in the late winter and early spring of 2022, fluctuating COVID-19 transmission rates, as well as recent new case rises and new variants, have had counties considering a return of some form of mask mandate. During the summer, Alameda County brought their mandate back briefly, with LA County nearly doing so but dropping plans to do so at the last minute due to both a turnaround of new cases and enormous public outcry.
A dip in cases during the fall quelled fears of a mandate for a time, but with the number of positive cases climbing again, LA County Public Health Department began to strongly recommend wearing masks indoors last month. The number of cases has continued to increase since. On November 21st, 1,123 new cases of COVID-19 were announced by LA County Public Health. In early December, the number of new cases a day were over 2,700, with an average of 192 COVID-related hospital admissions, with the daily total going well above that average with 4,493 new cases. LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer even announced that the weekly averages went up again, with the seven day average of the weekly positivity rate hitting 13% for the first time since earlier last year.
CDC trigger levels of a mask mandate were also met by the County in all areas but one. While the COVID patient admission rate and overall case rate being above the CDC levels, the requirement of having 10% or more inpatient hospital beds with COVID patients was not met, being at only 6.9% in early December. However, LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer projected that the County would meet that rate by later in the month, with a mandate to return by January 5th.
No indoor mask mandate in LA County
All those fears turned out to be unfounded in December. While the number of COVID cases have remained high in the County (along with flu and RSV cases), they have not been the disaster many predicted, at least in terms of being similar to the winter surge last year. On Thursday, LA Public Health reported that there were 3,602 New Positive Cases and 28 New Deaths due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. The overall number is below where they were a month before in December, and much more below where they were a year ago during the surge when there was 26,674 new cases a day being reported.
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) January 5, 2023
The 10% inpatient hospital beds with COVID patients CDC trigger continues to not be met. While it has gone up since the 6.9% rate a month ago, currently the CDC has pegged the rate at 7.3%, with other trigger levels going slightly down since this time last month as well. While a surge could still happen, especially with many holiday travelers returning following Christmas and New Year’s holidays, the fact that this winter a surge has not happened during the same time it happened in previous years means that LA County likely avoided a CDC-trigger mandate.
“Let’s not count our chickens before they hatch, but the signs are good,” noted Luisa Renteria, a nurse in Los Angeles who has assisted COVID patients since March 2020, to the Globe on Thursday. “LA County Public Health kind of misread where everything was going to be and scared a lot of people with the thought that a mask mandate was coming back. It’s still a good idea to wear one, and everyone should still be taking proper precautions like washing hands, but we haven’t gotten close to reaching the mandate.”
“The thing is, we’ve had more people come in worried about flu this year. And remember, this is the descendent of the flu that happened in 1917-1918 in the last pandemic. It’s too early to say if we have to live with COVID now like we live with flu season each year, but the fact that flu is back to being public enemy number 1 shows you just how much of a backseat COVID has taken.. And with it not surging really, at least not right now, that’s where it will remain for people. Right now, it will take a lot, and I do mean a lot, for the mandate to come back.”
Weekly totals to be reported on in the next few weeks are likely to show what, if any, bump in COVID cases there will be as a result of the holiday season.
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