The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health appears poised to relax its indoor mask mandates this Friday, February 25, joining the state of California in removing a key component of the pandemic-era rules around wearing masks in public spaces. The region has already seen its outdoor mask mandate go away, and with COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and transmission rates falling, public officials have been under increasing pressure to no longer mandate masks indoors.
Los Angeles County supervisor Janice Hahn said in a tweet last night that a new health order would be issued today, “allowing vaccinated people to take off their masks indoors at places that check for proof of vaccination.” The new health order would go into effect starting this Friday. If formalized as expected, the order would allow diners (and likely workers) to remain maskless for the entirety of their time indoors at restaurants, bars, gyms, and the like, as long as those businesses checked for vaccination status at the door. Diners that cannot prove their vaccination status will have to remain masked or eat outside (or get their food to go), and restaurants that do not check for vaccination status will be required to ask diners to remain masked when not actively eating or drinking.
Update: here’s the order.
That’s an important delineation, as the state has removed many indoor mask mandates for vaccinated diners. Local public officials (like those in Los Angeles) are allowed to continue with more stringent public health rules than the state if they deem it important; hence the differentiation between local and state-level guidance. It’s also key to note that operators can continue to mandate mask-wearing at their businesses after any new public health order goes into effect if they so choose.
Officials like Dr. Barbara Ferrer have long stated (per the Los Angeles Times and others) that LA County would not fully remove any mask mandate requirements — meaning no need to check vaccination status at the door — until the county moved into an area of “moderate transmission,” defined by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control as less than 50 cases per 100,000 residents. Los Angeles County currently sees about 300 test positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents, but at the currently declining rate that moderate level could happen by mid-March. More on this as it comes.