By Emily Alvarenga & Caleb Lunetta
Signal Staff Writers
Masks are once again set to be required for Los Angeles County residents indoors — regardless of vaccination status — starting Sunday, county Department of Public Health officials announced Thursday, warning stricter measures could be put in place if COVID-19 case rates continue to increase.
A new health officer order is set to go into effect 11:59 p.m. Saturday, with details on the order set to be released by Friday.
The move follows Public Health urging residents to wear masks indoors in public in recent weeks as COVID-19 case rates and spread of the Delta variant increased.
“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late, given what we’re seeing,” Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said during Thursday’s media briefing. “We’re at a substantial level of community transmission … and we have to think about acting differently. Once we’re at a higher level, that will be too late.”
Davis called the county’s current COVID-19 situation an “all-hands-on-deck moment,” as Public Health officials have reported more than 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases for a week straight and a more-than-seven-times increase in new cases since the June 15 reopening. On Thursday, 1,537 cases were reported, an 83% increase in the past week and the highest number of cases since mid-March, according to Davis.
“Again, this is not a place that we wanted to be,” he added.
Davis said the order is expected to remain in place until Public Health begins to see improvements on case rates so that residents can “stop the trends and level of transmission we’re currently seeing.”
Reinstating the indoor mask mandate is set to allow businesses to continue operations without reinstating limitations, such as capacities, Davis added.
“This is one of the things that can be done. It is one thing that we have strongly recommended, even after June 15,” Davis said.
Davis told reporters on Thursday that the Delta variant was at 14% of cases in L.A. County’s sequencing, and that masks add an extra level of protection for vaccinated and unvaccinated people alike.
With regard to enforcement, Davis said Public Health would continue to look at how they would be able to enforce this mandate and how long the mandate would be in effect.
“In indoor public settings and businesses, you need to mask up,” he later added. “We really do need to get these numbers down, otherwise we’re going to end up in a situation where more strict measures have to be put in place.”
Preliminary data from recent months suggest 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths nationwide have occurred in unvaccinated people, while approximately 93% of cases in recent days have occurred in counties with vaccination rates of less than 40%, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said during a COVID-19 task force briefing last week.
County Public Health officials have continued to urge eligible residents to get vaccinated, which they said is the best protection from contracting the virus.
Public Health officials also released the following updated COVID-19 statistics Thursday:
New COVID-19 cases reported in L.A. County in the past 24 hours: 1,537
Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 1,262,578
New deaths related to COVID-19 reported: 3
Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 24,566
Hospitalizations countywide: 406; 22% of which are in the ICU.
COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 47, 34 of which came from the city of Santa Clarita.
Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 28,623
Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV as of July 14: 308
Percentage of vaccinated people (at least one dose) in the city of Santa Clarita as of July 11: 70.1%
Percentage of vaccinated people (at least one dose) in the SCV as of July 11: 66.6%