The county's decision to force masks on residents once again goes against the argument made by public health officials that the coronavirus vaccines have eliminated the need for face masks. (Related: Here we go again: Los Angeles says even vaccinated should mask up to protect against covid "delta" variant.)
"This is an all-hands-on-deck moment," said Los Angeles County Public Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis. "We're seeing the [infection] rates go up too high. We all need to do our part to try and prevent the need to do something else."
Davis announced his decision to reimpose Los Angeles County's mask mandate on Thursday, July 15. All residents are required to wear masks in indoor public spaces and businesses regardless of vaccination status.
This means all customers of indoor public establishments, like retail and grocery stores, restaurants and workplaces, need to wear masks at all times. Davis said people will still be free to enjoy indoor dining, but customers will have to put their masks on when they are not actively eating or drinking anything.
Davis said his mask mandate "will be similar" to the one Los Angeles County had before this mandate was lifted on June 15. It will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, July 17.
Los Angeles County is home to over 10 million people and the United States' second-largest city of Los Angeles. The county is one of a few jurisdictions around the country in recent days to either put out a new mandate or a recommendation regarding wearing masks.
"Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so that we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing," said Davis at the press conference announcing the mask mandate.
When asked if there is potential for further restrictions in the county, Davis said "everything is on the table" if the situation does not improve. He placed the onus on not being in lockdown on the residents of the county as he said they can't wait for things to get worse before they decide to wear their masks.
Asked how long the mask mandate will be in effect, Davis said it will depend on when the spread of infections slows down. "This is not the same situation as June 15," he said. "We were at a low level when we reopened. This is a very different situation from where we were when restrictions were lifted."
The announcement to reimpose the mask mandate follows six straight days of the post-vaccine delta variant wreaking havoc on the county. In the six days before the order went out, the county reported over 1,000 new cases daily.
New daily cases of the virus in Los Angeles County spiked in January to nearly 20,000. This plummeted to around 100 new daily cases in June, but since then has been on an upward trend. On Wednesday, there were nearly 400 people hospitalized in the county for COVID-19, up from 275 the week prior. The county also recorded nine new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the county reported 1,537 new post-vaccine coronavirus cases. This is the highest daily number since early March, and up from 1,315 new cases on Wednesday and 1,103 new cases on Tuesday.
Davis said the county's case rate was 7.1 cases per 100,000 people. This puts the region in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Substantial" category of spread.
According to county health data, the delta variant now accounts for around 71 percent of all tested COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County.
Davis blamed the rise in cases on the county's unvaccinated population, which numbers at slightly under four million.
According to data, around 61 percent of the county's residents over 16 years of age are vaccinated. Thirteen percent of the county population is under 12 years old and therefore not eligible for vaccination. If they are taken into account, only 51 percent of the county is fully vaccinated.
"We're seeing cases in children and younger adults rising," scaremongered Davis. He claimed that if adults are fully vaccinated, they can protect children who can't get the vaccine.
Learn more about how state and local governments are using post-vaccine delta variant outbreaks to bring back restrictions like mask mandates at Pandemic.news.