Los Angeles County has moved into the “high” tier for COVID-19-related hospitalizations, creeping the county ever closer to the return of indoor mask mandates.
Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, said in a press briefing on Thursday that as case rates, daily positivity rates and deaths rates continue to accelerate, Public Health anticipates the county will most likely stay in the “high” tier for two consecutive weeks — which is the threshold that would trigger a mask mandate.
“While we’re not seeing anywhere near the devastation this summer that we saw during last winter’s Omicron surge, we are seeing much higher case numbers than we saw during the peak of the Delta surge,” said Ferrer.
Currently, L.A County has experienced an 88% increase in COVID-related hospitalizations, a rate that Public Health anticipates will continue to rise. It is possible that L.A. County could return back to its “medium” tier, but the data is suggesting that scenario is unlikely. Public Health implied that indoor mask mandates returning is now becoming a matter of when, not if.
“It’s unlikely we’re at the peak of this recent surge, given the increased circulation of new sub-variants of concern,” said Ferrer. “With increasing hospitalizations, it is possible that we’ll see similar numbers [to the Delta surge] in the weeks to come,” said Ferrer.
If, or when, a mask mandate returns, Ferrer said it will likely be implemented on July 29. Masks are currently already mandated in places like health care facilities and public transit, but will be extended into virtually every indoor setting if, or when, a mandate is implemented.
However, Ferrer urged everyone not to wait until the mandate to start wearing a mask indoors. Ferrer said that as transmission runs rampant, it’s important for people to anticipate a surge.
“We have never stopped, for a moment, for the last few months, telling everyone that we strongly recommend you wear a mask when indoors,” said Ferrer. “So, nothing has changed on that recommendation.”
Ferrer noted a lot of the data is an undercount and that anyone looking at it with concern should, for the safety of their family and for themselves, be masking up.
The increase in deaths has also been a concern for Public Health, with deaths averaging 14 per day in the past week.
“We’ve already seen more deaths from COVID these past six months than we have seen annually from any other infectious diseases,” said Ferrer. “And it’s over three times as many deaths from COVID as we saw, on average, during a pre-pandemic flu season.”
Ferrer once again lamented those deaths.
“For those of you who’ve lost someone to COVID, please know you remain in our thoughts and our prayers and we’re wishing you peace in these very difficult times,” said Ferrer.