The recommendation is meant as a precautionary measure, not a rule. It comes amid mounting evidence that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading in L.A. County.
Don’t toss out your masks just yet. Los Angeles County health officials recommend that everyone, regardless of their vaccination status against COVID-19, wear a face mask indoors in public places due to the rapidly spreading Delta variant.
“I just think this is a sensible precaution,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
It comes amid mounting evidence that the Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading in L.A. County — the mutation now accounts for half of the county's variant cases. The Delta variant is believed to be more contagious and may cause more severe illnesses.
The recommendation is meant as a precautionary measure and not a rule and comes two weeks after the state lifted a public mask mandate for vaccinated Californians. Since then, the state’s COVID-19 cases have ticked up slightly.
“I never want to get back to the place where we're having to impose more directives,” Ferrer said. “But I'm not in favor of a strategy that has a lot of risks on the very same essential workers who were hit the hardest the first time.”
Less than half of working-age Latinos and Black Angelenos between the ages of 18 and 49 have received one dose of the coronavirus vaccines. That means less than 50% of the workforce in many businesses are not vaccinated and are now spending hours a day around a largely unmasked public.
“If we all put on our face coverings while we're going shopping, or while we're at the theater. I don't see that as asking too much of ourselves,” Ferrer said. “I see that as a prudent thing to do to really keep community transmission rates as low as possible during a full reopening, knowing we have lots of people not yet vaccinated, and that we don't want any significant increases in transmission.”
Ferrer said nationwide, fully vaccinated people make up about 10% of the Delta variant cases, though they are far less likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus. Unvaccinated people made up 89% of L.A. County’s 123 Delta variant cases.
Ferrer doesn’t believe L.A.’s guidelines are confusing even though they are more cautious than those issued by the CDC.
“Our job at this point is to issue ways to help guide people who are looking for better information about how to make decisions during the pandemic, as it's presenting itself today,” she said.
The L.A. County Department of Public Health recently updated its guidance on masks, which allows fully vaccinated people to go without a face covering in most indoor and outdoor settings.