A virtual town hall Thursday brought together Los Angeles County Public Health officials to answer questions from the public about changes to coronavirus restrictions come Tuesday when California’s “blueprint for a safer economy” expires.
The county will align with the state on masking and a variety of other areas including workplaces, schools and public spaces, according to officials, who said the state’s low transmission metrics are not an accident.
“It’s a result of the many hours invested by community leaders in educating people about preventing transmission and working to maximize vaccine access,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, commending the public for making COVID-19 transmission prevention a priority. “And it’s the result of everyone who has gotten a vaccine or has shared their vaccination story to help someone else get vaccinated.”
Fully vaccinated individuals will not need to wear masks in public starting June 15 except where everyone is required to wear masks, according to Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s public health officer.
Davis said those areas where masks are required include public transit and transportation hubs, indoors at K-12 schools and other childcare facilities, healthcare centers, detention and correctional centers, cooling centers, homeless shelters, emergency shelters and indoor public spaces and businesses for unvaccinated individuals.
“(Masks) continue to be a great way to protect yourself from getting sick if an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, shouts or sings near you or in the same room as you,” Davis said, advising unvaccinated people protect themselves by also limiting their gathering to outdoor spaces and short periods of time.
The California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) will meet on June 17 to consider adopting new standards around masking in the workplace that may take effect as early as June 20, according to Lisa Frias, the county’s director of environmental health.
“In the meantime, with regards to face coverings, all workers indoors must continue to be masked regardless of vaccinations status,” she said.
Frias said there are exception for people who are alone in an office or eating or drinking. People who have a medical condition or disability making the individual unable to wear a mask or where a mask interferes with a work task may also remove their masks in the workplace.
Employers must continue to ensure that employees stay at least 6 feet apart from each other, if possible, Frias said. Employers must also continue providing personal protective equipment.
Businesses have three options starting June 15, including asking customers for proof of vaccination, requiring customers self-attest to complying with state orders that the business has posted, or continuing to require all customers wear masks, according to Davis.
Schools and youth sports
Rob Gilchick, the head of the county Health Department’s adolescent section, said children 12 and older should get vaccinated.
Though vaccination isn’t a requirement for returning to in-person learning, Gilchick said it’s the county’s goal to vaccinate as many 12- to 17-year-olds before the new school year.
“The precise regulations regarding masking in the schools for the fall are not fully decided and will depend much on any of the recommendations that come from the CDC,” he said, recommending schools consider small, stable cohorts for students and setting handwashing times. “What we do expect is the opportunity for all students to return to full time in person instruction in a safe and supportive school environment.”
Gilchick said COVID-19 testing of student athletes is recommended though not required, while youth sports participants “who are actually playing and exerting themselves do have the option to remove their mask while they’re playing.”
Athletes on the sidelines of an indoor sports activity are required to wear a mask, though masking is not required for children outdoors.