Los Angeles County is expected to reimpose the mask mandate next week as the area sees more cases of COVID-19 caused by the BA.5 Omicron variant.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer asserted on Thursday that masking is an “effective” way to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Of all the tools we have used in this pandemic to counter the spread of COVID, indoor masking is one of the simplest, and turns out to be very effective,” Ferrer said.
The mandate would require anyone aged 2 or older to wear a mask at numerous indoor spaces, including offices, manufacturing facilities, retail and event locations, restaurants, bars, gyms, yoga studios, educational spaces, and children’s programs.
Officials in Los Angeles County previously warned that a mandate would be reinstated if the area’s COVID-19 community level reached “high” for two consecutive weeks based on standards set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
L.A. County’s community level hit “high” last week and has remained there as of Thursday. If the level doesn’t drop soon, the mask order will be implemented July 29.
Ferrer said that while she hopes a mandate isn’t reinstated, a new masking requirement should be over quickly – the county will remove the mandate when the region is no longer in the “high” community level for two consecutive weeks.
“It isn’t going to take much to move us back into that ‘medium’ community level if we can get our case numbers to go lower,” she said.
“Should we start seeing a steep decline in our [case] numbers next week — because we know that hospitalizations are this lagging indicator — we are likely to want to take a pause on moving too quickly on universal indoor masking,” she added.
Ferrer said the goal is to keep transmission levels low in an effort to prevent “avoidable deaths.”
“High community transmission also leads to preventable and avoidable deaths, primarily among those most vulnerable,” Ferrer said. “If we can slow down transmission, we have a good chance of preventing some people from dying in the upcoming months.”
L.A. County’s push for a renewed mask mandate comes after a new study released earlier this month showed school mask mandates had little effect on stopping the spread of COVID-19.
“Our findings contribute to a growing body of literature which suggests school-based mask mandates have limited to no impact on the case rates of COVID-19 among K-12 students,” researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Davis wrote.
The CDC also admitted in a report that their own study of 90,000 students at 169 Georgia elementary schools found “the 21% lower incidence in schools that required mask use among students was not statistically significant compared with schools where mask use was optional.”