As COVID-19 cases surge again, Los Angeles County recommends a return to indoor masks

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — With COVID-19 infection rates soaring since early November, Los Angeles County on Thursday returned to “strongly recommending” that people wear masks in all indoor public spaces.

The recommendation falls short of a masking mandate, but masks are still required indoors in health and care facilities for anyone who has been exposed to the virus in the past 10 days and in locations where they are required by the operator, County Health Officer dr Muntu Davis said.

For the past several months, indoor covering has been a matter of personal preference, unless individual companies or locations have dictated it.

The county switched back to “strongly recommended” indoor mask wearing Thursday as the local seven-day average of daily new COVID-19 infections rose to 100 per 100,000 residents, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate in the previous week was 65 per 100,000 population.

“It is now strongly recommended that all individuals wear a quality mask that fits well in the following settings: indoor public spaces; when using public transportation, including buses, ridesharing, taxis and medical transport; correctional facilities and prisons; and homeless and emergency shelters,” Davis said.

The rising caseload reflected a steady increase in daily reported caseloads and hospital admissions since early November.

Davis said the county is currently reporting about 1,500 new cases per day, up from 1,300 per day a week ago and a 52% increase since Nov. 1. He noted that the reported cases represent only a portion of the actual infections that have emerged in the county since many residents rely on at-home testing that is not reported to public health officials, while many others are not tested at all.

Average daily hospitalizations related to COVID are averaging 97 per day, up 26% from 77 per day last week and up 54% since Nov. 1, Davis said.

On Thursday, the number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals rose to 648 from 589 the previous day. Of those patients, 77 were being treated in intensive care, up from 75 the day before.

Health officials previously said about 40% of patients were actually admitted for COVID-related issues, while the rest were admitted for other reasons but tested positive in hospital.

Virus-related deaths reported daily remain relatively low at about eight a day, but Davis said as case numbers and hospitalizations increase, that number could start to rise.

Health officials are warning of a third straight wave of COVID-19 cases in winter, noting the increased risk of transmission as people spend more time indoors due to colder weather and winter holidays. Davis also noted on Thursday the ongoing risk of emerging new variants that can spread more quickly from person to person, even when vaccinated.

He again urged residents to get vaccinated or get the latest available booster shot, designed to combat current Omicron variants. He also insisted on the safety effects of masks, citing a recent Harvard University study of school districts in Massachusetts following the lifting of mask requirements on campuses.

According to Davis, the study found that districts that lift masks had a COVID infection rate of 128 per 1,000 people, while those masking had a rate of 66 per 1,000.

He urged residents to exercise caution during Thanksgiving and other winter holidays, especially when attending large gatherings.

“We are grateful that this year we have the tools that will allow us to gather with a lot of security,” he said. “However, it will mean that we all likely need to take some sensible precautions to avoid future disruption and the spread of disease.

He said this includes being up to date on all vaccinations, including COVID and flu shots.

Thursday’s COVID case numbers were not immediately available. On Wednesday, the county reported an additional 2,215 infections, giving the county a cumulative total of 3,511,076 throughout the pandemic.

Another nine virus-related deaths were reported Wednesday, giving the county a total death toll of 34,081.

The seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 7.1% on Wednesday, up from 5.6% a week ago.

The video in the media player above is from a previous report.

Copyright © 2022 City News Service, Inc. All rights reserved. As COVID-19 cases surge again, Los Angeles County recommends a return to indoor masks

Laura Coffey

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