High levels of COVID-19 may prompt return of indoor masking

Coronavirus. Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control

Public Health to reinstate indoor mask mandate if community transmission of COVID-19 reaches high levels  

Public health data indicates there’s been an increase in coronavirus test positivity and hospitalizations, causing mild concerns that Los Angeles County will soon be at a high level of community transmission of COVID-19 – which would prompt health leaders to reinstate an indoor masking requirement if the county meets that threshold. 

“I want to note that should we cross the (Centers for Disease Control) threshold for high community level of transmission, we would align the county’s position with the CDC framework that calls for universal masking indoors,” Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said during a press briefing on Thursday.  

“We would implement required universal indoor masking after two consecutive weeks of being at the CDC-designated high community level and we would withdraw the safety measure requirements once we’ve returned to the CDC community level or medium community level designation for those two consecutive weeks.” 

If L.A. County reaches that designated high level of COVID-19 community transmission, the indoor masking mandate would be required for everyone ages 2 and older, and it would apply to all indoor public settings including businesses offices, schools, retail stores, factories and event venues, Ferrer said. 

According to Ferrer, there continues to be a small increase in the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19. The average number of COVID-positive patients per day in L.A County hospitals over the past week was 592, she added. 

“This is an increase of nearly 80% from one month ago, when the average number of COVID-positive patients per day was about 331,” Ferrer said. “Test positivity increased to 8.2%. It was at 4.8% last week. It nearly tripled from test positivity a month ago.” 

Ferrer said Public Health examines both test positivity and case numbers to assess the risk of viral spread, and given that there are still high numbers for both those metrics, L.A. County continues to experience high transmission. 

Public Health staff tracks the impact of the pandemic in the county using the CDC COVID-19 community levels framework, which is a measure of the strain on a county’s health care system. L.A. County remains at a medium community level, she said.  

“The hospital metric, that’s the seven-day total of new hospital admissions per 100,000 people, increased to 7.3 admissions per 100,000 people. This is twice as high as it was one month ago, but again, relatively stable over the past few days,” Ferrer said.  

According to Ferrer, with hospital admissions steadily increasing, L.A. County faces the prospect of moving from the medium community level to the high community level. The CDC uses two indicators to establish a community’s level of transmission: new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population (from a seven-day total) and a percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients (a seven-day average). 

“Another possibility that would change our designated CDC community level is if our weekly case rate drops significantly over the next couple of weeks to under 200 new cases per 100,000 residents,” Ferrer said. “This would change the hospital metric thresholds that are applied to determine our community level since our current weekly case rate is at about 343 new cases per 100,000 people.” 

“We’d need to see a pretty big decrease in our case rate for this to happen.” 

On Thursday, the L.A. County Department of Public Health reported the following numbers for the county, as well as the Santa Clarita Valley: 

Countywide COVID-19 cases reported in the past 24 hours: 4,583 

Total COVID-19 cases in L.A. County: 3,051,930 

New deaths related to COVID-19 reported in the past 24 hours: 9 

Total COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County: 32,245 

Hospitalizations countywide: 605 

COVID-19 cases reported in the Santa Clarita Valley in the past 24 hours: 154, 119 of which came from the city of Santa Clarita   

Total COVID-19 cases in the SCV: 79,251 

Total COVID-19 deaths in the SCV as of June 14: 479 

Percentage of people vaccinated in the city of Santa Clarita: 83.3% 

Percentage of people vaccinated in the Santa Clarita Valley: 79.6%  

(Vaccination data through June 9; updated June 15.) 

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