LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer on Tuesday laid out the strict requirements it will take to lift mask-wearing mandates.
Speaking to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Ferrer Tuesday said her department has developed a list of key metrics the county must meet before the mask mandate can be lifted for large outdoor events and in indoor settings with less than 1,000 people, such as workplaces.
Most notably, the county must have three consecutive weeks of “moderate” virus transmission as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means it must have a cumulative seven-day new case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. According to the CDC, the county’s current rate is 83 per 100,000 residents, landing the county in the “substantial” transmission category. Ferrer noted that the county’s rate last week was about 72, meaning virus transmission has actually increased in the last seven days.
Other criteria that must be reached to consider lifting masking requirements are three consecutive weeks of low hospitalization numbers, a full-vaccination rate of 80% of residents aged 12 and older, and no emerging reports of widely circulating COVID-19 “variants of concern” that could lead to new surges of infections.
For indoor settings of people less than 1,000 people, including worksites, all of the same criteria must be met, and such settings must have a vaccine-verification system in place and full vaccination of all employees and customers, with other requirements for those with approved vaccine exemptions.
As of Oct. 28, 80% of county residents aged 12 and up have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% are fully vaccinated. Ferrer said she is hopeful that L.A. County will reach 80% full vaccination of all residents in that age group by the winter holidays.
Hospitalization numbers have fallen sharply in L.A. County since the summer surge of cases that saw patient numbers reach 1,800. However, the decline has plateaued in recent weeks, with the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in L.A. County at 653 as of Tuesday, according to state figures.
L.A. County has maintained strict mask requirements despite growing vaccination numbers and downward trends in COVID-19 hospitalizations and infections.
With much fanfare, California lifted its statewide mask mandate for most businesses on June 15. However, following a surge of cases, L.A. County reinstituted its own mask mandate just one month later, on July 17. Masks are required in all indoor public setting in L.A. County regardless of vaccination status. In restaurants, stadiums and entertainment venues, such as movie theaters, they can only be removed while eating or drinking.
Meanwhile, beginning Thursday, anyone entering bars, breweries, wineries, distilleries, nightclubs and lounges in L.A. County will have to show proof of full vaccination.
Then, beginning on Monday, Nov. 8, a much more sweeping vaccination mandate will take effect in the city of Los Angeles, where proof of full vaccination will be required to enter a long list of businesses, including restaurants, bars, coffee shops, salons, theaters and gyms.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)