LOS ANGELES - The indoor mask mandate for Los Angeles County goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
The mandate means customers will again be required to mask up – regardless of vaccination status – when entering any indoor public establishment, including retail shops, grocery stores, bars, clubs, restaurants and workplaces.
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County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said indoor dining will remain open, but customers will have to remain masked while they are not eating or drinking.
Davis said the county is "not where we need to be" in terms of getting the population vaccinated against the virus.
He said the rate of virus spread in the county has officially risen from moderate to substantial, with infections five times more likely to occur among unvaccinated residents. The current seven-day average rate of daily new cases in the county is now at 7.1 cases per 100,000 residents.
"I think it's obviously incredibly disappointing and frustrating that we're having to take this huge step backwards especially since we now have three very effective vaccines available. The fact that we still have so many unvaccinated patients who are getting sick and hospitalized is obviously very disappointing," said Dr. Thomas Yadegar, the Medical Director for the Intensive Care Unit at Providence Cedars Sinai Medical Center.
Dr. Yadegar said the rationale behind everyone wearing a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status is protection.
"Even the people that have been vaccinated, it's not 100% effective and we are seeing those patients do get the virus. Fortunately, though it goes from being a deadly virus to a bad cold but you can still pass it on," he said.
Health officials from LA County believe the Delta variant is responsible for the majority of new infections. Statewide, 43% of sequenced COVID-19 samples last week were found to be the "Delta" variant. Yadegar said the variant is highly concerning.
"The patient population that we're seeing is vastly different from the ones we had seen from the past 15 to 16 months. We're seeing 30 to 40-year-olds that are healthy and thought that they were invincible and unfortunately this virus, the Delta variant as well as the Lambda variant that may be coming are much more transmissible," said Yadegar.
There are still nearly four million LA county residents who are unvaccinated. Currently, 69% of county residents aged 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 61% are fully vaccinated. Among those aged 65 and older, 88% have received at least one dose, and 78% are fully vaccinated. Data from LA County shows 99.6% of new COVID-19 cases are unvaccinated people.