LA Mask Mandate Puts County at Odds With California Guidance

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health has reinstated rules on wearing masks indoors amid concerns about a rapid rise in COVID cases there.

The department said the county had seen a more than seven-times increase in new COVID cases since June 15, when California lifted a wide range of restrictions including physical distancing and capacity limits.

As a result, it said people living in Los Angeles county will have to wear masks indoors, even if they are fully vaccinated, effective July 17 at 11:59 p.m. local time.

Los Angeles' new mask rules do not impose any limits on business occupancy. For people dining in restaurants, the rules mean people will need to keep their masks on if they are not eating or drinking, Dr. Muntu Davis, the county's health officer, told a press conference attended by the Associated Press.

Davis said in a press release that the county expects to keep requiring masks until officials start to see improvements in community transmission of COVID.

The new mask requirement means the county is now at odds with guidance for the rest of California, where state rules don't require them in most indoors settings.

California's COVID guidance states that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks except in public transit, healthcare settings, indoors in K-12 schools and other youth settings, correctional facilities, and homeless and emergency shelters.

And the CDC's mask guidance states that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or staying six feet apart—although it does make room for exceptions as required by federal or state law.

The CDC states that unvaccinated people still have to wear a mask in indoor places across the U.S.

People are generally regarded as fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, or the first and only shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

CDC data shows that, as of July 14, the seven-day moving average of new cases in Calfornia was 2,058—up from 1,591 a week prior.

Cases are also increasing across the U.S. as a whole. As of July 14 the 7-day moving average of new cases was 26,306—up from 15,541 a week prior, according to CDC data.

The mandate comes as the Delta variant spreads around the country, having become the dominant form of COVID in the U.S.

Davis said in a news conference on Thursday that "waiting to do something will be too late given what we're seeing now."

Davis said: "Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so that we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing.

"We continue to urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and their family and friends."

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Masked and unmasked people are pictured in Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, California on June 29, 2021. In California and across the country, COVID cases are now rising. FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images