LA City Relaxes Indoor Mask Rules; County Still at High Risk: CDC

By Alice Sun
Alice Sun
Alice Sun
and Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times.
February 25, 2022Updated: March 4, 2022

LOS ANGELES—To align with the county’s mask policy, the City of Los Angeles relaxed its mask policy on Friday, Feb. 25, for businesses that require proof of vaccination to enter, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced on the same day.

“This moment gives us a renewed sense of optimism about the direction of this pandemic,” Garcetti said. “We are able to take these steps today because of our collective determination and sacrifice, and we should take pride in that.”

Taking effect immediately, the city’s new health order applies to a wide variety of places, including offices, manufacturing facilities, and warehouses.

Los Angeles County allows businesses to give customers and employees an option to take off their masks indoors if everyone is fully vaccinated or can provide a recent negative COVID-19 test result.

Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated individuals will still be required to wear a mask in spite of a negative test result.

However, masks are still mandatory on public transportation, indoor settings at K–12 schools, and in homeless shelters.

“While many are celebrating this as an advance on mask freedom, it doesn’t necessarily change that much because it still gives opportunities to force masking in any business setting,” Dr. Houman David Hemmati told The Epoch Times.

Hemmati is a board-certified biomedical research scientist in Santa Monica who has been actively speaking out about the COVID-19 policies implemented by health officials.

His concern regarding the decisions made that have impacted the livelihood of millions is mainly the “lack” of “science, literature, and facts,” that are being cited—along with changing COVID-19 masking mandates and infection numbers.

“It’s a bit disheartening because they don’t have any justifications for the measures they’re using to justify their policies,” he said.

CDC Updates Masking Guidelines

The CDC announced its new indoor mask guidelines on Feb. 25, saying that over 70 percent of the U.S. population are ready to take off their masks.

The CDC determines whether a local county is at a low, medium, or high level of COVID-19 risk based on three criteria: hospitalization, new COVID-19 cases, and hospital capacity.

According to the CDC, only 28 percent of the U.S. population live in a county with a high level of risk and should continue to mask up indoors. In counties at the medium risk level, immunocompromised individuals should consult with their healthcare providers about whether to mask up or not, the agency suggested. For low-risk regions, the agency only recommends people to get vaccinated and—when having symptoms—get tested.

Los Angeles and San Diego counties remain at high risk while Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties stay at the medium level, according to CDC’s risk level checker.

Hemmati cited the inconvenience of the entire LA County being meshed together as a “high” COVID-19 transmittable area when cities on the western side have lower numbers than other areas.

According to Hemmati, there have been efforts in the State Assembly pushing for local counties to apply public health policies based on different areas within a county rather than lump the entire county together as a whole.

However, the related proposals have been largely opposed, and Hemmati doesn’t believe they will be heard.

When can the mask mandate be lifted in LA County?

When the state indoor mask mandate for vaccinated individuals expired on Feb. 15, many Southern California counties followed suit, including Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Riverside—but not Los Angeles.

LA County’s indoor mask mandate can only be removed when the transmission rate is at or below “moderate” level—no more than 730 new cases per day for 7 consecutive days as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

California is reassessing K–12 school masking requirements, and more information will be announced on Monday, Feb. 28, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the county’s public health department, said at a Feb. 24 media briefing.

Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest school district in the United States—dropped its outdoor mask mandate for K­–12 students and staff on Feb. 22, almost a week after LA County ended its mask mandate outdoor K–12 schools and child care centers.

On Feb. 25, Los Angeles County reported 1,105 people hospitalized with COVID-19, 2,406 new COVID-19 cases, and 68 additional deaths. The average number of new cases reported in the past seven days has dropped to 2,400 from approximately 3,800 cases the previous week, according to the county Public Health Department.