Los Angeles County on Track to Reimpose Mask Mandates by the End of July

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

Just when you thought you were out, they pull you back in.

Los Angeles County is on pace for a reimposition of the indoor mask mandate by the end of the month. The highly contagious Omicron subvariant BA.5 — the fastest-spreading form of omicron so far — is spreading quickly, and the number of infections could trigger an automatic mask mandate indoors later this month.

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As is usual with the pandemic, the number of infections doesn’t tell the whole story.

ABC7:

Health officials have said that many of those patients entered the hospital for other reasons before testing positive for COVID, but they still place an added burden on hospital staff as they require special infection-control measures. Ferrer said roughly 40% of patients with the virus were admitted for COVID illness, while 60% were admitted for other reasons.

Ferrer clarified on Thursday that the hospital admission rate being relied upon by the county in determining the “high” community level differs from the one being reported weekly by the CDC.

She said the CDC figure relating to hospital admission rates actually combines Los Angeles and Orange counties, and Orange County has a substantially higher admission rate than Los Angeles.

The CDC website on Thursday showed both Los Angeles and Orange counties with a COVID hospital admission rate of 9.7 per 100,000 residents, putting both on the precipice of entering the “high” virus activity level.

The trigger for the mask mandate is set extremely low — presumably to head off an increase in infections that would fill up hospital ICUs. What matters is that the clock is ticking. Two consecutive weeks with hospital admissions being as high as they are this week would trigger the mandate.

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As of Thursday, the county’s admission rate was 8.4 per 100,000 residents. But given the rate of increase over the past two weeks, the county is on pace to reach 10 per 100,000 residents by next Thursday, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in an online briefing.

She stressed that the estimate is only a projection which could change dramatically based on admission numbers in the coming days.

If the county remains at that high level for two consecutive weeks, it will re-impose a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate. Under the current schedule, that would happen on July 29.

“We don’t have the luxury of doing nothing,” Ferrer said, pointing to the high level of virus spread in the county — increasingly fueled by the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of the virus — and rising hospitalization numbers.

“What makes the most sense is to remain committed to protecting one another,” she said. The problem — as everyone but public health bureaucrats appears to know — is that most masks are useless in “protecting one another.” When dealing with a virus that is vaccine-resistant, the only thing that makes sense is to avoid other people, if you’re vulnerable to serious illness because of other conditions.

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Los Angeles County is going to have a hard time enforcing its mandate. No doubt there will be plenty of busybodies who will help out those who refuse to wear a mask by pointing out their deficiencies. And then the busybody will be surprised that his mask doesn’t protect him from getting a punch in the nose.

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