In the face of steadily increasing COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations, Los Angeles County residents will again be required to wear masks in indoor public settings beginning Saturday night, health officials announced today.
County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said the county is "not where we need to be'' in terms of vaccinations against the virus, as evidenced by seven straight days of new cases numbers that topped 1,000. On Thursday, the county reported 1,537 new infections, the highest number since early March.
Meanwhile, in San Diego County, Tammy Glenn, the assistant director of the County of San Diego Communications Office, told NBC 7 that the county would continue to follow state guidance on mask wearing and urge people to get vaccinated to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
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For its part, the California Department of Public Health said the "state’s existing Face Covering Guidance remains in place" but that state officials support the "ability of local health jurisdictions to enact stricter local public health guidance that is tailored to the situation in their communities, as some counties have done."
In Los Angeles, Davis 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.
As a result, Davis said a revised county Health Officer Order will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday, requiring all residents to wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status. The county previously only recommended such mask-wearing in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and protect unvaccinated residents.
There are still nearly 4 million county residents who are unvaccinated.
Davis said that given the rising spread of the virus, ``waiting to do something would be too late.''
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.
The number of people hospitalized in Los Angeles County due to the virus jumped to 452 on Thursday, according to state figures, up from 406 on Wednesday, with 96 people in intensive care. The number of people hospitalized has been climbing steadily for the past three weeks, and is now double the number reported when COVID health restrictions were lifted statewide on June 15.
The rolling-average rate of people testing positive for the virus also continued to climb, reaching 3.75% on Thursday, up from 3.7% Wednesday and well above the 0.3% rate from a month ago.
The increase in infections and hospitalizations is widely blamed on the highly infectious ``Delta'' variant of the virus. The variant was first detected in India, where widespread infections were reported. The variant is also credited for significant outbreaks in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.