As COVID-19 case numbers continue to drop from the omicron surge, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) officials announced the end of mandatory indoor masking for vaccinated individuals in certain places. Starting on Feb. 25, establishments, businesses, and venues that verify vaccination status can make masking optional for fully vaccinated individuals.
In announcing the revised policy, Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer expressed condolences for the heavy toll exacted on the county by the virus, which has taken the lives of more than 30,000 Angelenos.
“Our hearts remain with those families experiencing the sorrow of losing those they love to COVID-19.” said Ferrer in a statement.
“While there are powerful tools that impede virus transmission, none are perfect which is why we often need to use a variety of safety measures to reduce transmission. When transmission is very high, we need to create the most complete shield we can so that’s why it’s important that we layer in all the protections at hand.”
“As transmission drops and there is less virus circulating, some tools may afford significant protections against the very worst risks associated with COVID. Because vaccines are one of these tools, with lower rates of hospital admissions and COVID hospitalizations, it is appropriate in settings verifying vaccination or negative test status, that we transition to strongly recommending masking instead of requiring masking.”
Vaccines remain the most effective way of slowing transmission and preventing serious illness and death from the coronavirus. According to county data, residents who were unvaccinated were more than two and a half times more likely to be infected when compared to individuals who were fully vaccinated. When comparing unvaccinated individuals to vaccinated individuals who had received a booster, the unvaccinated were nearly four times more likely to contract COVID-19.
County data shows the impact of vaccines in curbing hospitalization and death, with unvaccinated people being five times more likely to end up in the hospital than fully vaccinated residents. When compared to those who had received a booster, unvaccinated individuals were 13 times more likely to be hospitalized.
The guidelines authorize establishments, businesses, or venues to make masks optional for both employees and customers , or customers only. Anyone without a mask must present proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test. Unvaccinated people may enter establishments after showing a negative coronavirus test but must wear a mask except when actively eating or drinking.
Coronavirus tests must be taken within two days if a PCR test or within one day if a rapid antigen test and must be administered by a lab or healthcare provider. At-home tests are not acceptable.
The new guidelines do not apply to schools, healthcare settings, and public transportation, which are subject to a state indoor mask mandate.