Mandatory mask wearing indoors could return to Los Angeles County within weeks

LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Mandatory indoor mask-wearing could return to Los Angeles County within weeks, possibly by the end of June, if the rate of new COVID-19 cases and virus-related hospitalizations doesn’t decrease, the county’s health director said Thursday .

Los Angeles County is currently listed in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “moderate” viral activity category based on the cumulative seven-day rate of new cases. However, the county is placed in the high category if its average daily rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions rises above 10 per 100,000 population or if the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients exceeds 10%.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the current rate of hospital admissions in the county is now 5.2 per 100,000 people, double the rate a month ago. The proportion of beds occupied by virus patients is still relatively low at 2.7%, but also higher than in the previous month.

“While these hospital metrics remain well below the community CDC threshold for ‘high’, both our weekly case rate and the rate of increase in hospital admissions are of concern,” Ferrer said. entering the CDC community level “high,” suggesting an increasing burden on the healthcare system.

If the county reaches the “high” category, it will again mandate mask-wearing in all indoor public spaces.

Ferrer said there was “no certainty” when the county could reach the high level.

“Actual hospitalizations could be increasing at a faster rate, or if case numbers stabilize or decrease over the next two weeks, the rate of increase in hospitalizations could be much lower,” she said. “As we look into the near future, it reminds us that we also have the ability to influence where these numbers go. We all have the power to take action to reduce the spread of the virus, which will ultimately reduce the number of people who are hospitalized with a positive COVID-19 infection.”

She welcomed the move by Alameda County in Northern California, where an indoor mask mandate goes into effect again on Friday. And she pointed to two recent studies that indicated that wearing masks has a notable impact on reducing the spread of the virus.

According to a study conducted in California, people who said they always wear a mask in indoor public places were 56% less likely to test positive for COVID than people who never wore one.

The odds were 83% lower for people working with higher-end masks — like the N95 or KN95, Ferrer said.

The second study, conducted in Arkansas, found that school districts with universal mask requirements had 23% lower case rates.

Los Angeles County currently requires masks in healthcare facilities, aboard transit vehicles and at transit hubs such as airports, in long-term care facilities, in emergency shelters and refrigeration centers, and in correctional facilities.

The county reported 5,047 new COVID infections Thursday, bringing the county’s cumulative total throughout the pandemic to 2,985,665. Ten new deaths were also reported, bringing the local virus-related death toll to 32,146.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 5.3%, an increase Ferrer said is likely a combination of increased community transmission and a reduction in overall testing due to the end of the school year.

According to state figures, there were 524 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, up from 502 the day before. The number of patients treated in the intensive care unit was 59, up from 53 the day before.

Copyright © 2022 City News Service, Inc. All rights reserved. Mandatory mask wearing indoors could return to Los Angeles County within weeks

Laura Coffey

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