For months, Los Angeles was the only county in California that still enforced widespread anonymity in such settings—although some individual operators, most notably the Bay Area commuter rail system, also had such rules.
Los Angeles County health officials previously noted the increased risks of the spread of the coronavirus and exposure to transportation workers, but with a marked decrease in reported cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, health officials said it was time to ease the matter.
Hiding is still highly recommended in internal transfer settings – and “In our view, [that] It’s a great idea to keep your mask on, said Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County’s director of public health.
The BART Board of Directors voted 8 to 1 Thursday evening to effectively end the Bay Area rail system’s mask mandate next month. The resolution empowers BART’s GM to impose a new mandate if Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, San Mateo or Santa Clara counties reinstate indoor concealment, among other conditions.
“Because there is no such requirement now, BART’s current mask requirements, are set to expire when they expire after October 1,” BART officials said. “There will be no need for masks for the first day of October 2nd.”
AC Transit, which operates a bus service in East Bay, also has a mask mandate.
Los Angeles County officials have said they will reauthorize the mask on public transit and in transit centers if prices go up again.
The Los Angeles County change of time coincides with the timing of the California Department of Public Health’s plan to lift mandatory state-ordered masks in prisons, prisons, homeless shelters, emergency centers and refrigeration in counties with a low community level for COVID-19, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The placement in this category — which includes most California counties — indicates that the epidemic is not having a significant impact on hospitals. The CDC updates its community-wide assessments, which indicate rates of new hospitalizations with coronavirus, each week, rating counties as low, medium or high.
Government concealment orders will remain in effect in prisons, shelters, and cooling centers in the event of an outbreak, or if the facility is in a county with a moderate or high community level of COVID-19.
As of Thursday, there were no California counties in the top tier, and only eight in the mid-tier: Kern, Stanislaus, Merced, Butte, Tihama, Tuolumne, Glenn and Mariposa. About 95% of Californians live in counties with a low community level of COVID-19.
Masks are still required in health care facilities, long-term care settings, and seniors under a state health order. The state is asking businesses and venues, including K-12 schools, to “allow any individual to wear a mask if they wish.”
L.A. County is also relaxing its recommendation for blanket concealment indoors, instead saying the practice should be a matter of personal preference in light of declining rates of coronavirus cases. The state does the same in counties where hospitalization levels are low.
“I’m optimistic that we’re at that level where, in fact, we have less spread than we’ve seen in a long time, people can feel comfortable making those decisions because there’s a lot less transmission,” Ferrer said.
County health officials still strongly recommend that some individuals — including the elderly or unvaccinated residents, as well as those with underlying health conditions or who live in areas of high poverty — cover up in higher-risk settings. These spaces include those places that are crowded, have close contact with others, or have poor airflow.
Ferrer also urged people to wear masks on public transport and at hubs such as airports.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health had previously said it would relax its guidance whenever the county drops below the threshold of 100 coronavirus cases per week per 100,000 residents.
During the seven-day period that ended Thursday, Los Angeles County reported 98 coronavirus cases per week for every 100,000 residents.
Ferrer said the transit masking order would be reinstated if the case rate crossed 100 again and remained above that limit for 14 consecutive days.
“You can’t just ignore the high risks associated with public transportation, especially for transportation workers,” she said. “If case rates rise to indicate high transmission, it is appropriate to layer in more protection to prevent spread.”
Ferrer also outlined the criteria that would lead to the return of the general internal mask mandate – the like of which has not been implemented since early March.
To get to this point, Los Angeles County would need to record a significant spread of the coronavirus as well as see a significant deterioration in new hospital admissions with coronavirus and a significant percentage of hospital beds being taken by patients with coronavirus.
Conditions must deteriorate to a point that has only been seen twice before in the epidemic – during the first fall-winter wave that began in late 2020, the morgue was very overcrowded, and the National Guard was called in; And the first increase in Omicron occurred after Thanksgiving 2021, which flooded emergency rooms, ambulances faced delays in hospitals and canceled scheduled surgeries for patients.
Specifically, L.A. County will need to reach two thresholds to return to its blanket mask order, criteria that will be more difficult to achieve than the plan that was in place this summer.
Assuming a high case rate of coronavirus, blanket mask mandate would only return if Los Angeles County saw at least 10 positive new hospital admissions per week per 100,000 residents and had at least 10% of all staffed hospital beds occupied Coronavirus – positive patients.
Currently, the county is reporting 6.5 new hospital admissions with coronavirus per week for every 100,000 residents, and those patients occupy only 3.6% of hospital beds.
During the height of this summer’s wave, when it looked like a renewed mask order was imminent, Los Angeles County topped 7.2% of hospital beds taken by coronavirus patients, though it temporarily outpaced another hospitalization metric.
“Everything we do here is really about trying to get us to a place where we recognize how important it is to have new tools that help us keep each other safe. These are vaccines, boosters, testing and treatments,” Ferrer said. “But when we see things get out of hand, we need to go back to the strategies that worked before we get the vaccines and boosters.”
Some L.A. County mask orders will remain in effect after Friday, including a requirement that anyone exposed to the coronavirus wears a mask for 10 days after exposure. Exposure to the coronavirus is defined as sharing the same indoor air space for at least 15 minutes in a 24-hour period.
Infected individuals in Los Angeles County are also being asked to stay home for at least five days after their first symptoms or the date of their first positive test if they do not develop symptoms. They can exit isolation as early as the sixth day if they test negative in a rapid test, and they can generally exit isolation at the beginning of the eleventh day without the need for a negative test result.
Los Angeles County’s concealment orders for exposed and infected persons are the same as those imposed by the California Department of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA, for employees on the job site. The California Department of Public Health has similar guidelines for exposed and infected people, but unlike LA County and Cal/OSHA, it gives them recommendations, not requirements.
California on Friday also scrapped its largely strong recommendation that everyone — regardless of vaccination status — hide them when in indoor public spaces and businesses. Instead, it is recommended to disguise public enclosed spaces only when the county’s COVID-19 community level is high.
Dr. Thomas Aragon, California’s director of public health and state health officer, said in a statement that the changes would give “Califorians the information they should consider when deciding when to wear a mask, including community prevalence and personal risk.” .
California health officials say mask use is still important to protect against infection. The state Department of Public Health, citing a study published in 2021, said that constantly wearing a face mask in indoor public places reduced the risk of infection with the Corona virus. The officials, citing a series of nationwide surveys, said a 10% increase in self-reported mask wearing tripled the likelihood of slowing transmission of the virus in the community.
Times staff writer Gregory Yee contributed to this report.