Los Angeles Keeps Mask Mandate Despite California Ending Requirement

Los Angeles County will retain its local mask order, despite California lifting its mask mandate for indoor public places from next week. It remains to be seen whether other counties will follow suit.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced Monday that the statewide mask mandate for vaccinated people would end on February 15, nearly two years since it was implemented, although unvaccinated people still have to wear masks in indoor settings.

However, local governments can continue their own indoor masking requirements. Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said her jurisdiction—the state's most populous—would not lift its mask mandate, FOX 11 reported.

Last week, Ferrer had said county health authorities would keep the requirement until certain benchmarks are met. Ferrer told a media briefing last week that masking requirements would be relaxed "when transmission is lower," adding, "we're not there yet."

She said the winter surge would be considered over when hospitalizations fall below 2,500 for seven days in a row, CBS News reported, and currently there are 2,773. Case counts also have to drop to 50 new cases per 100,000 before an easing of the rules.

San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties told ABC 7 they were also assessing their plans about keeping or dropping the mandates.

Counties with stricter rules such as those in much of the Bay Area may still keep the mandates in place although the network said jurisdictions had not said yet whether they had made a decision.

All Bay Area counties, except for Marin, have a mask mandate.

In announcing the easing of rules on coverings, Newsom cited how his state's case rate "had decreased by 65 percent since our Omicron peak," tweeting, "our hospitalizations have stabilized across the state."

The lifting of the mandate will apply to counties without their own local mask orders such as San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties and parts of the San Joaquin Valley.

Everyone, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, will still have to wear masks in higher-risk areas such as public transit and nursing homes.

From next week, California will also increase the attendance thresholds for indoor and outdoor "mega events" from 500 to 1,000, and 5,000 to 10,000, respectively. This comes after Sunday's Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles.

School districts will still follow Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and maintain mask mandates although state officials announced Monday that these would be soon updated, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Newsom, a Democrat, had faced pressure from Republicans and other critics to ease the mandates, but Jonathan Keller, president of the conservative California Family Council said the decision "isn't good enough" CBS reported, "we should free our children as well."

It comes as New Jersey and Delaware also announced plans Monday to lift the statewide COVID-19 mask requirement in schools next month.

Newsweek has contacted Newsom's office and Los Angeles County for comment.

People in masks in Los Angeles
People at a store in Hollywood, California, on July 19, 2021. Los Angeles County will continue demanding people wear masks despite a statewide mask mandate ending. ROBYN BECK/Getty