Los Angeles County outdoor mask mandate to be lifted at midnight, including at schools

Los Angeles County will lift its outdoor mask mandate at midnight for both mega-events and outside at K-12 schools and child care centers, health officials announced Tuesday.

In early February, County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, said the county will consider itself out of the current COVID-19 surge when virus-related hospitalizations fall below 2,500 for seven straight days, a benchmark that will be achieved on Wednesday. As of Tuesday, there were 1,995 COVID-positive hospital patients in the county, according to state figures.

Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the outdoor mask requirement will be formally lifted at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

The state of California will lift its COVID-19 indoor mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated people Wednesday, but the rule will remain in place in Los Angeles County, which plans to maintain its indoor face-covering regulation until virus transmission falls more dramatically.

RELATED: California will end mask mandate on Feb. 15, LA County will not align with state's changes

Ferrer said again Tuesday that the county's indoor masking rule will remain in place until the county's virus-transmission rate falls to the "moderate" level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and stays there for two weeks. Ferrer said the county's rate is declining, and at the current pace, it should reach the "moderate" level by March 16, meaning the indoor mask requirement could be lifted by March 30.

She said she understands residents' desire to shed face coverings, but the "issue is one of timing." Ferrer said masks are a critical level of protection when virus transmission remains high.

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The 1,995 virus-positive hospital patients reported Tuesday was down from 2,054 on Monday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care units was 423 as of Tuesday, down from 437 on Monday.

Hospitalizations had climbed to over 4,800 in mid-January at the height of the Omicron-variant-fueled winter surge in cases.

The county on Monday also reported 26 more COVID-19-related deaths, raising the overall virus death toll to 29,928.

Masks will continue to be required statewide in select indoor settings, most notably in schools. The school mask-wearing mandate will be in place across California until at least Feb. 28, when health officials plan to reassess pandemic metrics and determine if it can be lifted.

The county's outdoor mask mandate has been under fire this past week after pictures of maskless celebrities and government officials at SoFi Stadium went viral following the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LVI this past weekend.

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CNS contributed to this report.