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

COVID-19 Update: No New Indoor Mask Mandate This Week


“We will be pausing and not moving forward at this time with universal indoor masking.” 
– LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer yesterday


With what is likely to strike many people (especially business owners) as great news, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced yesterday that almost all of our key COVID-19 numbers this week indicate that, instead of continuing to rise, cases are plateauing or even starting to fall, which means we may have reached the peak of the latest surge and are likely poised to drop back down from the CDC-defined “high” community tier to “medium” by next week.

Two weeks ago, the still-growing surge pushed LA County into the “high” community tier for the first time since last winter, and County officials have long said, abiding by CDC guidance, that if we remained at the “high” level for two straight weeks, it would trigger a return to mandatory indoor masking in most public spaces (including workplaces, schools, bars, restaurants and more).  We remained in the high tier last week, so that meant that if we were still at the same level this week, the new indoor masking rules would likely be announced yesterday and take effect today.

But while we were still officially in the high tier yesterday, Ferrer also reported that almost all the indicators being tracked by LA County showed a welcome lack of increase last week – with some even falling. And if that trend continues, she said, we’ll likely be back in the “medium” tier by next week.  All of which means, she said, that it would not make sense at this point to put everyone through the gyrations of instituting and enforcing a new indoor mask mandate, just to repeal it a week or so later.

Ferrer also stated firmly that “we based our decision on the data,” and that it was not made in response to recent opposition to the possible re-instatement of indoor masking – most notably this week by LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

In addition to the declining case numbers and hospitalizations reported by the CDC so far, Ferrer explained there’s also a difference between CDC-reported data for LA County, which lags a couple of days behind the current date, and data from the LA County Department of Public Health, which can report slightly more up-to-date numbers.  At the moment, Ferrer said, the CDC-reported data, which only records numbers through July 21, shows that LA County is experiencing 11.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, which is above the 10 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents that the CDC uses as the threshold for the “high” community tier.



But looking at LA County’s own data, which is two days newer, Ferrer said we’re really now at 9.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents, which would officially move us down to the medium tier as soon as the CDC catches up with the newest numbers.  So we’re “pretty confident,” Ferrer said, that we’re “on the cusp” of that move, and that it makes sense now to stop the clock on new indoor masking requirements.



Also, Ferrer said many other numbers this week provide additional confidence that there is a real downward trend coming, and not just a brief blip in a continuing upward path.  For example, Ferrer reported that all the early alert signals followed by LA County this week remained at the same levels they were at a week ago. Also, hospitalizations, emergency department encounters related to COVID-19, outbreaks in workplaces and homeless settings, and case rates in our lowest income areas all fell this week…and levels of COVID-19 in wastewater samples plateaued.

Looking more closely at wastewater testing, Ferrer also reported that because so many people are relying on home testing these days, wastewater, which does not rely on whether or not someone got tested or reported a test result, may now be the most accurate picture we have of daily cases.  To illustrate this, she provided a new graphic that shows how  wastewater testing closely reflected officially reported test results during last winter’s surge…and how the two trend lines diverged significantly during this summer’s surge, with the number of officially-reported cases significantly lower than the case levels indicated by wastewater testing.  This information supports what County officials have been saying in recent months about each day’s new case numbers almost certainly representing a significant undercount.  In fact, according to Ferrer’s chart, while the official daily case count has been hovering between 6 and 7,000 cases per day lately, it’s much more likely, according to wastewater testing, to have been more than 20,000 new cases per day in recent weeks.



So this week’s news is definitely good.  That said, however, Ferrer also cautioned that our transmission rates are still very high, and that the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the Omicron strain of COVID-19, both of which are among the most transmissible variants yet, are still gaining ground.



Ferrer also said she finds it “disheartening” that many people now believe the “misinformation” that “no one dies from COVID any more.”  In fact, she said, COVID-19 is still among the leading causes of death in LA County, and new deaths from COVID-19, which tend to lag a bit behind other numbers such as new case reports and hospitalizations, continued to rise this week.

For these reasons, Ferrer reminded residents that wearing masks indoors is “still very highly recommended” and that individual businesses are still allowed to require masks if they choose to do so.  Also, our long-standing requirements for everyone to wear masks on public transportation, in health care settings, long-term care settings, correctional facilities, and more, still stand.



And, of course, wearing masks, especially indoors, is definitely still one of the most effective measures we have to protect ourselves and others, and to help slow the spread of COVID-19.



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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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