Mandatory indoor mask-wearing could return to LA County within weeks

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – Mandatory mask-wearing indoors could return in Los Angeles County in a few weeks, possibly by the end of June, barring a drop in the rate of new cases. of COVID-19 and virus-related hospitalizations, the county’s director of public health said Thursday.

Los Angeles County is currently listed in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “medium” virus activity category, based on its seven-day cumulative rate of new cases. But the county will move into the “high” category if its average daily rate of new COVID-related hospital admissions exceeds 10 per 100,000 population, or if the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID-positive patients exceeds 10. %.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the county’s current rate of new hospital admissions is now 5.2 per 100,000 people, double the rate from a month ago. The share of beds occupied by patients infected with the virus is still relatively low at 2.7%, but also higher than it was last month.

“While these hospital metrics remain well below the ‘high’ threshold in the CDC’s community setting, our weekly case rate and rate of increase in hospital admissions is concerning,” Ferrer said. “If we continue on the current trajectory … we will likely move to the CDC “high” community level within a few weeks, towards the end of June, indicating increased stress on the healthcare system.

If the county reaches the “high” category, it will again require masks to be worn in all indoor public places.

Ferrer said there was “no certainty” on when the county could reach the “high” level.

“Actual hospitalizations could increase at a faster rate, or if the number of cases stabilizes or decreases over the next two weeks, the rate of increase in hospitalizations could be much lower,” she said. “As we look to the near future, it reminds us that we ourselves also have the ability to influence where these numbers go. We all have the power to take action to reduce the amount of viral spread, which which ultimately reduces the number of people who are in hospital with a positive COVID-19 infection.”

She applauded the action taken by Alameda County in Northern California, where an indoor mask mandate will take effect again on Friday. And she pointed to a pair of recent studies that suggested mask-wearing had a noticeable impact on reducing the spread of the virus.

According to a study, which was conducted in California, the odds of testing positive for COVID were 56% lower for people who reported always wearing a mask in indoor public places, compared to those who did not. never.

The odds were 83% lower for people who work with premium masks — such as N95 or KN95, Ferrer said.

The second study, conducted in Arkansas, found that school districts with universal masking requirements had 23% lower case rates.

Los Angeles County currently requires masks inside healthcare facilities, on board transit vehicles, and in transit centers such as airports, in long-term care facilities, in shelters and cooling centers and in correctional facilities.

The county reported 5,047 new COVID infections on Thursday, bringing the county’s cumulative total throughout the pandemic to 2,985,665. Ten new deaths were also reported, bringing the number of local virus-related deaths to 32,146 .

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus has risen to 5.3%, an increase according to Ferrer is likely a combination of increased community transmission and an overall reduction in testing due to the end of the year. school.

According to state figures, there were 524 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, up from 502 the day before. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 59, down from 53 a day earlier.

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