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LA County sheriff won’t enforce new mask mandate: ‘Not backed by science’

Patrol cars of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department. (James/Flickr)
July 19, 2021

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Friday that he will not enforce the new LA County mask mandate, which went into effect just before midnight Saturday.

“Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines,” Villanueva wrote in a statement. 

“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance,” he continued. “We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.”

On Friday, the County of Los Angeles Public Health Department announced that the mask mandate would be reinstated due to “alarming trends of increased community spread” of COVID-19.

“The alarming increases in cases, positivity rates and the increase in hospitalizations signals immediate action must be taken to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Muntu Davis, MD, MPH, Los Angeles County Health Officer in a statement. “Otherwise, we may quickly see more devastating illness and death among the millions of residents.”

“Without physical distancing and capacity limits during a time of substantial community spread, masking by everyone indoors is a simple and effective action we all can take to lower risk of transmission while limiting disruption to normal business capacity and operations,” Davis added. “The urgency to get more people vaccinated remains high with this level of spread. For everyone whose eligible and still waiting to get vaccinated, the time do it is now.”

The department reported 4 new deaths, 1,635 new positive cases, and 507 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the county as of Sunday. The county has seen six straight days of over 1,000 new cases.

“Wearing a mask indoors with others reduces the risk of both getting & transmitting the virus. We’re requiring masking for everyone while indoors at public settings & businesses, regardless of vaccination status so that we can stop the increased level of transmission we’re seeing,” the DPH said on Twitter Thursday.

The county health department also “strongly urged” citizens to get vaccinated. “Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 lowers your risk of infection, and more significantly lowers your chance of being hospitalized or dying if you do get infected. The risk of increased spread is highest among individuals that remain unvaccinated.”