In an open letter issued on Monday, Supervisor Kathryn Barger voiced her opposition to a “forthcoming masking mandate,” saying that the possible move was not supported by “empirical evidence.”
The statement, issued just a day before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set to receive an update on the situation from Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, expressed Barger’s position that boosters and vaccines are the most effective tools in battling COVID-19.
“I have not seen any empirical data that conclusively shows that masking mandates make a difference in decreasing or stopping COVID-19 transmission rates,” Barger said in her letter, later adding: “I believe masking mandates are polarizing and are unenforceable.”
When asked by The Signal for comment on what the timeline for a possible masking mandate would look like, or for a response to Barger’s open letter, officials from the Department of Public Health deferred comment to Ferrer’s future statements on Tuesday.
According to Barger’s letter, a masking mandate could once again be put into effect throughout all of L.A. County by the “end of this week.”
“We are learning to live through its countless mutations, spikes in infections, and corresponding strains on our hospitals and workforce,” said Barger in her letter. “In order to maintain consistency and public trust, I remain committed to advocating for our county to remain aligned with the state’s COVID-19 public health policies.”
Barger also criticized the notion that imposing a masking mandate will create equity in a county as big and diverse as L.A, saying that this type of policy would not create meaningful improvement in the underlying health care inequities for communities of color.
“I support our current COVID-19 public health masking policies, which require their use while using public transportation, in hospitals, homeless shelters and jails,” Barger said. “However, imposing a one-size-fits-all masking mandate now for all is not something I can or will support.”
In a press briefing held last week, Ferrer said that even though, as of Thursday, death rates (18 per day) and daily COVID-19 cases have stabilized to a degree, the current dominant subvariant (BA.5) is still driving up seven-day average case rates (now at 481 per 100,000) and hospitalizations (11.4 per 100,000). The spike in weekly case rates, Ferrer pointed out, was unprecedented.
“Residents living in communities with lower incomes, higher rates of poverty, are also much more likely to be hospitalized than those living in wealthier communities,” said Ferrer. “And while individuals living in the highest-poverty areas have consistently had higher hospitalization rates than individuals living in the wealthiest areas, the gap…has grown recently during the surge.”
Ferrer is expected to deliver a presentation on the current situation regarding COVID-19, and a possible masking mandate, during the L.A. County Board of Supervisors regular meeting.
The meeting is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. and those wishing to view or participate in the discussion can visit https://bos.lacounty.gov/Board-Meeting/Board-Agendas to receive more information.