Indoor mask-wearing could be imposed by the end of July. (Courtesy image)

Los Angeles County remains on pace to enter the “high” COVID-19 activity level as early as July 14, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced, and absent a major reversal in virus-related hospitalizations, an indoor mask-wearing mandate will be imposed two weeks later.

The county is already in the “medium” COVID level as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on the elevated rate of people being infected with the virus. If the county’s rate of daily COVID-positive patients being admitted to area hospitals tops 10 per 100,000 residents, it will enter the “high” category.

As of July 12, that rate was at 8.8 per 100,000 residents.

“Given the continued increase, we do anticipate by this Thursday (July 14) the county will move into that high level,” Ferrer said.
 If the county remains in the “high” category for two consecutive weeks, a mandatory indoor mask-wearing mandate will be imposed, she said. Under the current pace, that mandate will take effect by July 29.

“I do recognize that when we return to universal indoor masking to reduce high spread, for many this will feel like a step backwards,” Ferrer said.  But she said universal masking “makes a lot of sense because it helps us to reduce risk.”

She again pointed to recent studies showing dramatic reduction in infection risk for people who wear face coverings, particularly for people who  wear higher-grade masks, such as N95 or KN95 masks.

Masks are already still mandated in some indoor spaces — health care facilities, transit hubs, on transit vehicles, airports, correctional facilities and shelters. A universal mandate would spread the requirement to all indoor public spaces, including shared office spaces, manufacturing
facilities, retail stores, indoor events, indoor restaurants and bars and schools.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl again forcefully backed the idea of requiring masks, saying she has “no patience” for people who won’t wear them.   “People are just not wearing them when they’re not mandated,” Kuehl said. 

Earlier this week, L.A. County reported 5,170 new COVID-19 infections, along with 14 new deaths.
The new infections lifted the county’s cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,183,359.

Health officials have warned that the actual number of new infections occurring in the county is not fully reflected in the daily numbers, since many people now rely on at-home tests, the results of which are not always reported to the county.

The 14 new virus-related deaths reported July 12 lifted the overall death toll in the county to 32,464. Health officials have said that a majority of the deaths occurred in people with at least one underlying health condition, mainly hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 16.3%.