Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

COVID-19 Update: Mask Mandate Still Likely to Start on July 29


In her weekly media address yesterday, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer reported 8,691 new cases of COVID-19, with 1,329 current hospitalizations and 18 new deaths.  As usual, Ferrer said the new case numbers represent a significant undercount, since so many people are now using home test kits that do not get counted in the official totals.  But even so, the numbers are higher than they were during the Delta surge last summer, the County still remains in the “high” community tier as defined by the CDC, and it’s still likely that a renewed indoor mask mandate will go into effect next Friday, July 29.

Looking at this week’s numbers, Ferrer did report a slight leveling off in new cases this week, but she said it’s too early yet to predict whether this signals the beginning of a downward trend, or – as we’ve had at several points along the way during the overall surge in the last couple of months – just a slight pause before the numbers continue to rise again.



The good news, though, Ferrer said, is that with more people vaccinated and boosted now, and the availability of therapeutic drugs, fewer people are hospitalized this time around, and fewer of those hospitalized are winding up in intensive care and/or on respirators.  But that doesn’t mean COVID is no longer a dangerous illness, especially for those who are most vulnerable.

For example, Ferrer said, severe illness and hospitalizations are much more likely to occur among older residents…



…Black residents…



…and those who live in high-poverty areas.



As noted above, this week’s numbers, which include 11.4 hospital admissions per 100 residents, keep us in the “high” community tier for a second week.  And if we don’t fall back down to “medium” by next week, Ferrer said, the County will likely reinstate indoor mask requirements for most indoor public spaces, including workplaces, retail stores, restaurants and bars, event venues, and more.  Ferrer did say that if there is a significant drop in cases before next Friday, the measure could be reconsidered…but she also says it does not seem highly likely that that will happen.



Following the trend that’s been developing since early May, the ultra-contagious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants continue to expand their share of local cases, this week seen in 72% of samples sequenced in LA County.  (BA.5 accounts for 78% of all cases nationwide.)

Ferrer said health officials are also still keeping an eye on the new BA.2.75 Omicron subvariant, now spreading in India, which is also highly contagious and, like BA.4 and BA.5, tends to cause reinfections in people who have already had COVID-19, even recently.  So far, however, Ferrer said only five cases of BA.2.75 have been found in California, and only one in LA County.



On the positive side, however, outbreaks in skilled nursing facilities and workplaces both dropped a bit this week…though both remained firmly at “high” levels.




As COVID infections become even more common, however, and more and more people survive relatively mild infections, there has been a tendency for an increasing number of people to decide that they’re just not going to worry about it any more…and that any new mandatory protective measures are unnecessary at best or, worse, an insult to people’s individual judgement and/or their freedom to determine their own risks.

Or, as one Angeleno put it in a recent LA Times story, “People are just exasperated and over it.”

But while Ferrer said we are definitely at a “much better place” than we were during previous surges in the pandemic, being dismissive now and not paying attention to the current surge is “a mistake.” So Ferrer did her best yesterday to get the message out that the risks are still very real, even if we’re tired of hearing about them, the current high transmission rate should be taken very seriously, and it’s up to all of us to protect the community at large.

First, she pointed out, high transmission means more people are getting sick. And illness (especially the kind that keeps people from working and earning money) disrupts family life, individual businesses, and even larger supply chains.

Second, Ferrer said, COVID-19 has already killed 4,500 people in LA County so far this year, which she said is completely “unacceptable” for an infectious disease for which we have proven methods of reducing risk and infection.

And third, aside from hospitalizations and deaths, even people with milder cases of COVID are still experiencing “long COVID” symptoms – such as reduced lung capacity, fatigue, loss of taste and smell, brain fog and more – about which we still don’t know enough, and which can linger for weeks, months, or perhaps even longer.  And there’s no way to predict yet, Ferrer said, who will or won’t experience those kinds of symptoms.



Also, Ferrer reported, people who have been reinfected after having a previous bout of COVID are at much higher risk of developing severe complications, being hospitalized, or dying from COVID…

…and the higher the transmission rates, the more likely new mutations are to develop, some of which can be even more transmissible or likely to cause serious illness than those we’ve seen before.



So Ferrer urged people to mask up as much as possible right now, saying “You don’t get sick and die if you don’t get infected,” and reminding people that even if they don’t think they’re at risk personally, “for a significant number of people, this pandemic continues to pose a very real risk.”

“We would be foolish to be complacent and not layer in extra protections,” she said, praising Los Angeles for its long history of working together to protect each other,” in the face of many kinds of dangers.  So putting our masks back on, she said, is just one more way to cooperate for the greater good.  “We’ve asked a lot more of everybody for a much longer time over the last two years,” Ferrer said.  “Think of your mask as an act of kindness and respect for others.”


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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