As Los Angeles County will not follow the state’s guideline to lift the mask mandate for vaccinated individuals next week, the county’s Department of Public Health outlined the criteria to drop masks in the coming weeks, possibly months.
On Feb. 7, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Twitter that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks indoors starting Feb. 15, as the direct result of the rapid decline of Omicron. Newsom said the COVID-19 cases reported statewide had decreased by 65 percent since the Omicron peak, and hospitalization has stabilized across the state.
Although the change in state policy will allow most counties—including San Bernadino, Orange, San Diego, and Riverside—to drop the mandate, those that have locally issued mandates, such as Los Angeles County, can follow their own rules.
At the Feb. 8 Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting, Ferrer once again clarified the requirements for the county to drop the mask mandate for both outdoor and indoor spaces.
To go mask-free outdoors, including mega-events, schools, and child care facilities, the county has to be considered as “post-surge”—with fewer than 2,500 hospitalizations for seven consecutive days.
To go mask-free indoors, at least one of the following two metrics has to be met:
The transmission rate remains moderate or below—fewer than 50 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days—for two consecutive weeks as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
COVID-19 vaccines have to have been available for children under 5 for at least eight weeks, and there is no circulating variant of concern that can threaten vaccination effectiveness.
Ferrer said it’s expected that COVID-19 vaccines will be approved for kids under 5 by the end of this month.
On Feb. 7, Los Angeles County reported 2,773 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19.
The county also reported 4,360 new COVID-19 cases and 29 additional deaths.
“Despite the encouraging news of declining cases, test positivity and hospitalizations, sadly we continue to see a high number of people dying due to COVID-19,” Ferrer said in a Feb. 7 statement.
“We share in the desire to take the mask off. The issue is one of timing,” Ferrer said at the Feb. 8 board meeting. “We anticipate being able to get to moderate transmission if we can continue to drive down the rates as we are right now on our cases within a few weeks, but we’re not there yet.”