Masks will once again be mandatory indoors in L.A. County as of this Saturday night. Photo by Chava Sanchez/LAist

By Jackie Fortiér

Originally published Jul 15, 2021

Amid rising hospitalizations, deaths and new COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant, Los Angeles County public health officials are reinstituting an indoor mask mandate. Starting just before midnight on Saturday, everyone indoors — no matter their vaccination status — will be required to wear a face covering, unless they are eating or drinking.

“This is an all hands on deck moment,” said Los Angeles County Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis at a Thursday afternoon press conference. “We’re seeing the rates go up too high. We all need to do our part to try and prevent the need to do something else.”

Courtesy L.A. County Department of Public Health

Davis noted that L.A. County’s case rate per 100,000 is now 7.1, putting the county in the “substantial” category of spread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

He said the order “will be similar” to masking requirements the county had in place before its June 15 reopening. Sacramento County health officials announced a similar order on Thursday because of a spike in cases there.

Davis said L.A. County’s order doesn’t have an end date, and will stay in place “until we begin to see improvements in our community transmission of COVID-19. But waiting for us to be at high community transmission before making a change would be too late.”

For the past week, L.A. County health officials have reported more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases daily. On Thursday, that number jumped to more than 1,500 new cases, the highest number since early March. Now, 452 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 — that’s up from 216 people on June 15, when most of California’s coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 made up the biggest increase in new COVID-19 cases in L.A. County, and Black and Latino residents remain the least vaccinated.

The delta variant is now 71% of all sequenced specimens in the county, Davis said. Nearly four million people in L.A. County remain unvaccinated.

Davis said physical distancing requirements and other public health measures could also be reinstituted.

“Anything is on the table if things continue to get worse,” Davis said.

This is a developing story. We will update this report.

This report is reprinted with permission from Southern California Public Radio. © 2021 Southern California Public Radio. All rights reserved.

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