L.A. to Require Masks Indoors Again as Delta Variant Rages

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Los Angeles County told its residents they must wear masks indoors -- even the vaccinated -- following a surge in Covid-19 cases and the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

The county of 10 million people added more than 1,000 new cases for a seventh straight day, with the transmission rate reaching close to a “high” level after hitting a “substantial” pace in a short period of time, Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, said in a briefing.

“We have to get these numbers down,” he said. “Masking by all makes it a lot easier for this to happen. And it adds that layer of protection for fully vaccinated people.”

The restriction -- set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday -- comes just one month after the county, along with the rest of California, lifted masking and social-distancing restrictions as cases eased. More curbs may follow if the infection rate accelerates. L.A. has taken a cautious approach throughout the pandemic as one of the first major cities to shut down non-essential businesses and order people to stay home in March 2020.

“Anything is on the table, if things continue to get worse,” Davis said.

The new policy makes it easier for businesses to impose the use of masks where vaccination status isn’t verified, he said. While the concern isn’t on fully vaccinated individuals, having a universal masking policy levels the playing field, he said. Those unvaccinated accounted for 99.6% of new cases from Dec. 7 to June 7, the county’s health department said last month.

The number of infections exceeded 1,500 Thursday, he said, a level not seen since early March. L.A. county has fully vaccinated 61% of its population, according to the public health agency. However, there are disparities in the vaccination rates. About 66% of White residents have received at least one dose compared to just 45% of the Black population.

Nationally, cases and hospitalizations are rising again, driven in part by outbreaks where vaccine coverage is low, cases are high and delta is dominant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The delta variant now accounts for more than half of U.S. cases, according to CDC estimates.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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