The two big pieces of COVID-19 news in the last week include big mask-related announcements (the CDC jumped out with an OK for vaccinated people to dump their masks, but many cities and states – including ours – are being a bit more cautious), and vaccination eligibility opening to kids 12-15 years old.
This past week, the overall COVID numbers for LA County have remained “low and stable,” according to LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, in her weekly address yesterday. New cases ranged from a low of 179 on May 10 to a high of 322 on May 12 (the 583 shown below for May 14 included 300 cases not previously reported in January, so not actually new this week). Hospitalizations have remained below 400 all week, and deaths have been declining as well.
Or, to put it more visually, all of these trends are still declining nicely and are at their lowest points in more than a year.
The Mask Issue
With things going pretty well nationally, too, the Centers for Disease Control on Friday announced new guidelines saying that fully vaccinated people could stop wearing masks for both outdoor and indoor activities:
- If you are fully vaccinated, you can resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic.
- Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.
While many people, and even some national businesses such as Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, and Target, said they would ditch their masks and mask requirements immediately, our state and local officials (whose rules carry the force of law while the CDC’s guidelines do not), said not so fast. California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office announced on Monday that California would retain its statewide mask mandate for both individuals and businesses (including those mentioned above) until June 15…and in yesterday’s press conference, Ferrer said LA County would follow suit, citing the large numbers of still-unvaccinated residents, especially young children, and the need to continue prevent transmission of the virus and its newer variants until more people are vaccinated.
“We came this far by taking care of each other,” Ferrer said, “and to end this pandemic we must be willing to follow sensible safety modifications that make it possible to reduce the number of cases and outbreaks while we increase the number of residents that are fully vaccinated.”
Which means that here in LA, until at least June 15, we will still be following the current Yellow Tier guidelines and the following mask requirements:
To help us reach that hoped-for June unmasking, federal, state and local officials continue to urge those who have not yet received a COVID vaccine to do so as soon as possible. At yesterday’s LA County press conference, County Supervisor Hilda Solis reminded residents that finding a vaccine is now easier than ever, with more than 755 vaccination sites in operation in LA County, no appointments required at most sites, and no cost for the vaccine.
Meanwhile, Ferrer reported that 44% of LA County’s approximately 10 million residents have now received two vaccine doses and are fully vaccinated, while 58% have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
At the same time, however, despite the overall number of vaccinations increasing, Ferrer noted that vaccination rates (the number of people getting newly vaccinated) have been falling in recent weeks, even though vaccinations have opened to both older and younger teens in the last couple of weeks.
On a more positive note, however, Ferrer also reported that in the last couple of weeks, parents have been turning out in large numbers to get their teens vaccinated.
And she invited parents and others who still have questions about COVID-19 vaccines to attend an LA County town hall meeting on the subject, which will be held online tonight via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube at 6:30 p.m.
Finally, now that all kids and teens ages 12-17 are also able to get vaccinated, LA School Superintendent Austin Beutner announced in his weekly address yesterday that LAUSD will increase its school-based vaccination efforts by sending mobile vaccination teams to more than 200 local schools, starting next week.
“Our plan is to visit each middle and high school campus to offer vaccinations to students at least once before school ends and again during the summer,” Beutner said. Also, “because health authorities require a family member to accompany anyone under 18 when they’re being vaccinated, Los Angeles Unified will provide paid time off to all staff to accompany their child to a vaccination site. We encourage all employers in the Los Angeles area to do the same.”
Beutner said a schedule for the vaccination visits will be available soon, and he likened the effort to similar school-based vaccination programs in the past, such as when vaccines for polio first became available in the 1950s.