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COVID-19 Update: CDC, State of California and LA County on Masks and More

CDC map showing counties with “low” and “moderate” (green and yellow) rates of COVID-19 transmission, which will now be allowed to mostly eliminate mask rules. (Los Angeles County, however, still has a “high” (orange) rate of transmission, so masks can still be required in indoor public spaces.)


The last few days have been a rather wild ride on the COVID-19 policy change front.  On Friday, the same day that brought LA County’s new masking rules (allowing businesses and other public places to choose whether or not to allow fully vaccinated employees, customers and other visitors with proof of vaccination to drop their masks indoors), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced new transmission tiers and mask guidelines based on individual county transmission rates.  Under the new rules, the approximately 72% of U.S. counties with “low” or “moderate” COVID-19 transmission rates now have the option to eliminate most indoor mask rules. (Though businesses and other venues could still choose to require masks, and individuals would still be free to wear them wherever they want to.)

As our own LA County health officials have reported, however, transmission rates in Los Angeles, though dropping steadily for the last couple of weeks, are still in the “high” range, along with about 36% of other counties in the U.S., so we don’t yet qualify for further mask relaxations.  Also, the CDC guidelines do not change rules for places like public transit, airplanes, airports, where masks are still required.  And masks are also still required indoors at all California schools.

That said, though, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in her weekly address on Thursday that if new cases and hospitalizations continue to fall at expected rates, the county could reach “moderate” transmission rates, and qualify for further mask rule relaxations, in just a couple of weeks, as shown below:



But Ferrer also said on Thursday, anticipating the CDC’s Friday announcement, that LA County will review the new CDC guidelines and consider revisions to local policies as appropriate, though it will take a few days to fully assess our local situation and make new recommendations. (According to the LA Times today, an announcement to that effect could come as early as the weekly Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.)

Also in the rapidly-evolving COVID-19 landscape yesterday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an end to about 95% of the statewide executive orders still in effect for COVID-19.  Some of these (mostly relating to emergency use of state-owned property) will end immediately, while others (including allowing virtual meetings of public bodies) will expire at the end of March, and still more will sunset in June.

At the same time, however, Newsom retained the state’s overall state of emergency, as well as current provisions relating to COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, which are valuable to both the public health and our health care system’s ability to operate safely.  The state of emergency also allows mask mandates to remain in place for schools and hospitals, until specifically rescinded by state health officials.  The state has previously said, however, that it would provide new updates on school policies on Monday, February 28, so changes may be coming on that front as well.  For the moment, though, schools do still retain their indoor mask rules, as outlined by Ferrer on Thursday:



So stand by. As the post-surge situation continues to evolve rapidly, we can probably expect even more changes and announcements in the next few days.  In the meantime, for more information on yesterday’s big news, see the following links regarding:

Also, here’s the CDC’s handy county-status-check widget – –  which monitors our status day by day and returns the following results for today:


Today’s result from the CDC’s county status check tool.



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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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