The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced changes this week to indoor masking recommendations and mandates, meaning that wearing a mask at airports and on public transportation will no longer be required.
The announcement was made by Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer during an in-person press conference on Thursday. The changes to masking guidelines are amid continually falling COVID-19 cases (1,400 per day) and hospitalization rates (96 per day) in the county during the past week.
“Last week I shared how we had recently updated the county’s COVID-19 response plan to consider the impact of reduced viral transmission,” said Ferrer. “We updated this plan yesterday after reviewing the new guidance from the California Department of Public Health.”
Masking will still be required in hospitals and other medical facilities. They’ll also still be required for those who have COVID-19, or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, for 10 days after first symptoms or first contact.
Businesses or commercially owned spaces will continue to have the right to set their own masking policies. All of these changes took effect on Friday.
Although these requirements have been lifted, Ferrer said wearing a mask indoors at transit hubs (or inside transit vehicles) is still strongly recommended. Wearing a mask in most indoor settings was also emphasized for those at greatest risk.
“For people over 65, for those who are unvaccinated, for those with underlying medical conditions and those who are immunocompromised, or living in communities with high rates of poverty, we strongly recommend masking inside settings with higher risk,” said Ferrer.
Ferrer said areas of higher risk include enclosed spaces with poor airflow, crowded places and close-contact settings.
While most metrics appear to be falling, deaths from COVID-19 have not. With an average of 11 to 14 deaths per day, the number has “relatively unchanged” since the beginning of the month – a fact Ferrer continued to lament on Thursday.
“For those who have experienced either mild or moderate symptoms with COVID, or who know others who have, the idea that they might lose a loved one at this point, more than two and a half years into the pandemic, seems hard to imagine,” said Ferrer. “However, this is still happening to many cherished individuals, particularly among those facing the challenges of older age or illnesses that have led to more fragile health. We wish peace and recovery to the friends and families of those who have passed.”
Ferrer said she hopes the distribution of the new bivalent booster – which offers protection against the original COVID-19 strain, the omicron variant, and its dominant dub-variants – will help curb the stagnating statistic of morbidity.