With a decision expected tomorrow on whether Angels County to reimpose indoor mask mandate due to rise in cases of the most contagious Variant BA.5the town of El Segundo today added its name to the list of local towns that will refuse to enforce such a rule if implemented by the county.
“My City Council colleagues and I strongly believe that the decision to wear a mask should be the choice of the individual and should not be imposed by LA County,” El Segundo Mayor Drew Boyles said. in a press release. “Individuals should review the available data and consider their own circumstances and make their own decisions about wearing a mask. Companies should consider the various agencies that regulate their business when deciding how they will react to a potential change in mask requirements.
The council voted at a special meeting on Tuesday evening against enforcing a possible mask order.
The beverly hills City Council cast a similar vote on Monday night, saying it would not enforce any new mask mandate. Ironically, in 2020, Beverly Hills was among the first towns in LA County to institute an outdoor mask mandate. City officials have decreed that everyone must wear some type of face covering whenever they leave their homes.
The cities of Long Beach and Pasadena – both of which run their own health departments separate from the county and therefore effectively have the power to decide their own health worker orders – announced on Tuesday that they would not issue of mask mandates, even if the county does.
“The [Long Beach] The Ministry of Health strongly encourages people to practice personal responsibility and common sense measures to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community as a whole from covid-19,” according to a statement from Long Beach. “People are advised to mask up indoors when in public places, conduct rapid tests before and three to five days after social gatherings and choose outdoor activities when possible.”
Long Beach and Pasadena officials said they would continue to monitor the Covid situation. Pasadena officials said they would “consider appropriate public health measures to protect our community as the situation evolves.”
The county’s public health department is expected to announce Thursday whether a new mask mandate will be imposed starting Friday.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the mandate would be imposed if the county remains at the “high” level of virus activity – as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – for two consecutive weeks. The county will hit that two-week threshold on Thursday.
The county moved into the upper tier when the average daily rate of new Covid-related hospital admissions hit a rate of 10 per 100,000 people. Last Thursday, the county’s rate was 11.7 per 100,000 people.
Covid infection and hospital numbers have stabilized and even decreased over the past week and a half. Ferrer said last week — and reiterated on Tuesday — that if downward trends continue, the county may delay imposing a new mask mandate.
She told the oversight board on Tuesday that, given recent declines, “we may be able to pause the implementation of universal masking.”
Ferrer said on Tuesday that most pandemic tracking measures were down, noting that the average daily rate of new cases over the past week had fallen to around 6,100 from 6,700 the previous week. Virus-related hospitalizations have also stabilised, she said, as well as the daily number of deaths – although she stressed that the latter number remained too high at around 14 deaths per day.
But on Wednesday, the numbers jumped again. The number of newly reported Covid cases more than doubled from Tuesday, when it was just over 3,500, to just over 7,300. The rise follows a familiar pattern seen in recent weeks, which may have given false hope at the start of the week: as testing and test results are slow over the weekend, the numbers from Sunday to Tuesday are often much lower. But once the backlog is cleared, the number of daily cases usually increases significantly each day until Saturday. Ferrer also warned that because home test results are not being released, current daily tallies are likely “grossly understated.”
Test positivity, which as a percentage of total cases and 7-day average is often more accurate, also jumped again. After dropping almost a full point to just above 14% yesterday, the numbers have been recalibrated, with most of the week in the low 15% range and Wednesday’s figure hitting 16.2%.
Covid-related hospitalizations rose slightly from Monday to around 1,280, but that’s down from 1,329 last Thursday. But, like Ferrer warned last week, if daily cases increase, hospitalizations will almost certainly follow two weeks later, making the logic of suspending a mask mandate more difficult for officials.
Deaths also increased significantly today, from 5 on Monday to 20 today. The latter figure is in line with those seen at the end of last week.
Los Angeles County is the only jurisdiction in the state to consider a masking mandate, even though all but eight of its counties are also at the CDC’s “high” virus activity level.
While Ferrer has championed the idea of a mandate — calling it a tried and simple tool to slow the transmission of the virus and protect workers in domestic businesses — opposition to the concept has grown.
County Supervisor Kathryn Barger released a statement Monday saying she would not support a warrant. She said she agrees masks are an effective tool against the spread of the virus, but doesn’t think imposing a mandate will have the desired effect.
“I’m adamantly opposed to mandating masking because I truly believe it will have the opposite effect,” Barger said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
Supervisor Janice Hahn joined her in opposing a possible warrant, saying she fears imposing such a rule “will be very divisive for LA County.” The two were also the dissenting voices before the mask mandates were lifted in January.
“I honestly believe there is a significant portion of the population that is unwilling to accept mask mandates at this point,” Hahn said. “And many of them, those who contacted me, pointed out that we have more tools now than we had at the start of the pandemic.
“Personally, I’m worried…that we’ll lose the trust this time of some of the public who have been with us so far,” she said.
Hahn suggested the county just consider expanding the list of places where masks are still required to include grocery stores and pharmacies, rather than all indoor spaces. Ferrer said his department would consider the idea.
City News Service contributed to this report.