Los Angeles County eases COVID-19 indoor mask mandate | Health

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles County will begin allowing people to remove their masks indoors when vaccinated as the winter omicron surge continues to ease, officials announced Thursday.

California’s largest county will relax its public health ordinance on Friday to allow people who show proof of vaccination to unmask indoors in restaurants, bars and other businesses. Employees can also allow their employees to remove their masks if they are vaccinated.

All customers are still required to show they are vaccinated or have recently tested negative for COVID-19. Under a nationwide rule, unvaccinated customers must continue to wear masks indoors unless they are actively eating or drinking.

The City of Los Angeles said it will follow LA County’s example.

The county lagged behind the state overall, which last week lifted its mandate for indoor masks for vaccinated people for most businesses. Most of California’s 58 counties quickly followed suit.

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However, Santa Clara County still requires universal indoor masking.

In releasing the changes, the county Department of Health cited lower COVID-19 hospitalizations and “the effectiveness of the vaccines in reducing serious illnesses.”

About 70% of LA County’s 10.3 million residents have been fully vaccinated, and about a third of residents also received a booster shot.

LA County officials have come under increasing pressure to relax mask requirements. Janice Hahn, one of five members of the county’s board of directors, argued last week that the county should follow the state’s lead.

“I think we’re starting to lose people’s trust,” she tweeted Feb. 15. “We’ve already seen thousands of people openly violated LA County’s (foreign) mask mandate at the Super Bowl…Failing to maintain mandates only undermines the public’s credibility in our ability to make good, informed decisions.” “

Last week, California became the first state to officially move to an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing a plan that emphasizes prevention and rapid response to outbreaks via mandatory masking and business closures.

The milestone, which has been in the works for almost two years, envisions a return to more normal life, with the help of a variety of initiatives and billions in new spending to detect surges or variants faster, add medical staff, hoard tests and act against them false claims and other misinformation.

It will likely be a few more weeks before Los Angeles County feels comfortable lifting all indoor mask requirements. This will happen if the county’s COVID-19 transmission rate, classified as high, reaches the moderate level of fewer than 730 cases per day for seven days.

As of Wednesday, the county reported 1,934 additional COVID-19 cases and 36 deaths. 1,204 people were hospitalized.

California still requires masks to be worn indoors in elementary schools, public transportation, or certain group facilities such as nursing homes, daycares, prisons, and homeless shelters. However, the state Department of Public Health could announce compulsory schooling changes on Monday.

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