LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County is re-implementing a mandate requiring residents to wear masks while indoors, regardless of vaccination status as the county continues to see an increase in COVID-19 transmission, county health officials said Thursday.
The county previously only recommended mask-wearing indoors.
When will LA County's new mask mandate take effect?
The new mandate will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
Where will LA County residents be required to wear masks?
The mandate means customers will again be required to mask up when entering any indoor public establishment, including retail shops, grocery stores, bars, clubs, restaurants and workplaces. 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.
Why will LA County be re-instating the indoor mask mandate?
Thursday marks the seventh consecutive day of new COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County exceeding the 1,000 mark. The 1,537 new cases reported by the county Thursday is the highest number of new cases the county has seen since early March.
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.
The new cases reported by the county Thursday lifted the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,262,578. The county reported three more COVID-19 deaths, lifting the overall death toll to 24,566.
When asked if the county might consider re-implementing other health restrictions -- such as capacity limits and physical distancing, Davis said, "Everything is on the table if things continue to get worse."
He said, for now, mask-wearing is the "easiest thing" for people to do to help limit the spread of the virus.
The increases continue slow but steady month-long climbs that have prompted concern among health care officials and led to another call from Gov. Gavin Newsom for people to get vaccinated.
"I cannot impress upon you more the power of getting vaccinated," Newsom said during an appearance Wednesday in Bell Gardens. "If we want to extinguish this pandemic, this disease, we've got to get vaccinated. Period. Full stop. You're seeing again around the rest of the world -- read the headlines in Indonesia right now. Read the headlines in Portugal right now. Read the headlines in the United States of America right now."
COVID-19 infection numbers have been rising steadily in recent weeks, a rise being blamed on continued spread of the "Delta" variant of the virus, which is considered vastly more contagious than other COVID mutations. The variant, which was responsible for wide-scale infections in India and parts of the United Kingdom, has been spreading domestically. Los Angeles County health officials said the "Delta" variant has been increasing in prevalence since April.
Statewide, 43% of sequenced COVID samples last week were found to be the "Delta" variant.
Davis insisted again that COVID vaccines provide strong protection against the virus and the "Delta" variant, but unvaccinated residents are at significantly higher risk.
There are still nearly 4 million 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.
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CNS contributed to this report.