L.A. County’s Sheriff Says He Won’t Enforce Mask Order


Los Angeles County’s sheriff said he won’t enforce the new order for masks indoors regardless of vaccination status because it’s not backed by science.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva contended that the order, set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, contradicts guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosening rules for the vaccinated.

The masking order came after the metropolitan area of 10 million people added more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases for a seventh straight day on Thursday, with the transmission rate close to a “high” level after hitting a “substantial” pace in a short period of time, according to Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer. Friday’s infections jumped to 1,902, the highest since March, and hospitalizations doubled from a month ago.

The health department has “the authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance,” Villanueva said in a statement Friday, adding that health officials should instead “establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.”

The restriction comes just one month after L.A., along with the rest of California, lifted masking and social-distancing restrictions. He said the new rules seemed aimed more at ease of enforcement, though the unvaccinated are at less risk and are less likely to spread the disease. In the county, those who are unvaccinated accounted for 99.6% of new cases from Dec. 7 to June 7.

In addition to Villanueva, Kathryn Barger, one of the county’s supervisors, also pushed back on the latest order.

“I am concerned by rising cases, but I don’t believe the mask mandate will help efforts to stress vaccine efficacy and compel unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated,” Barger said, adding that Los Angeles should not deviate from state policies because it creates confusion and disagreements.

Still, some California cities may join L.A.’s move as the delta variant pushes cases higher. Seven Bay Area counties that include San Francisco and Silicon Valley areas are recommending that residents wear masks again indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status starting this weekend.

The debate over L.A.’s mask order is also spilling into state politics, where challengers of Governor Gavin Newsom’s recall race in September are opposing the move.

“Vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks, medical experts have made that clear,” said Kevin Faulconer, a former San Diego mayor who called the order “unnecessary” and that he’d oppose it if he were the governor. Reality-TV star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner called the requirement for face coverings “Gavin’s shutdown 2.0.”

The mask debate could emerge in other cites as well with a surge in cases. As New York state reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since mid-May, a city council member called for a return of the mask mandates in indoor public spaces.

“We need to reverse this trend,” City Councilman Mark D. Levine, who chairs the health committee. “It’s time to renew the indoor mask mandate.”

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