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If COVID-19 Cases Rise, LA Could Return to Indoor Masking This Month

There’s hope that a mandate can be avoided, though

California Lifts Statewide Indoor Mask Mandate
A person holding a face mask behind their back
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise for months in greater Los Angeles, topping even last summer’s numbers, and there’s increasing worry that the county could be forced to re-implement mask mandates for indoor settings very soon. “We’re likely to move into the CDC high community level within a few weeks,” said public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer last week, which would automatically trigger a public health order mandate that includes the return of masking requirements.

While unpopular, Dr. Ferrer noted that the masking requirement could be necessary and helpful, citing the “increased stress on the healthcare system” that comes from rising cases and hospitalizations. Currently more than a dozen California counties are in the CDC’s high community level, with many clustered around the Bay Area; Oakland’s Alameda County has already re-implemented mask mandates. Full tracking of COVID-19 cases is also proving difficult, given the extensive use of at-home testing, where positive cases are often unreported. As a result, officials have been more likely to lean on hospitalization data when deciding the severity of a new COVID-19 surge.

It remains unclear how individual restaurants and other communities not covered by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, such as Long Beach and Pasadena would react to a new mask mandate. Even the availability of vaccines, some restaurants pushed back forcefully on masking and other pandemic public health rules, while overall enforcement by the LADPH was at times a struggle given the size and scope of the area it reaches.

There is time to see how it all shakes out, however. Early data from this week indicates that the statewide surge could be leveling off, if not decreasing outright. Several Southern California counties like Ventura, Orange, and Riverside, have begun to see week-over-week case rate deductions, reports the Los Angeles Times, and LA County’s numbers could also begin to recede before a potential mask mandate takes effect at the end of the month. “If case numbers stabilize or decrease in the next two weeks, the rate of increase in hospitalizations could be a lot lower,” Ferrer said. “We all have the power to take steps to reduce the amount of viral spread.”