Los Angeles County will adhere to California guidelines and wait until June 15 to lift the requirement for face coverings in indoor settings and crowded outdoor settings for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, officials said Monday.
The June date is when state officials are expected to lift most virus- related restrictions across California if the current positive trends continue.
County officials also encouraged people to continue to practice social distancing.
Currently, face coverings are not required outdoors except at crowded events, and — for unvaccinated people — when physical distancing cannot be maintained. In indoor settings outside the home including public transportation and schools, face coverings continue to be required regardless of vaccination status.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control revised its guidance last week, saying fully vaccinated people can largely stop wearing a mask in most indoor and outdoor situations. That guidance does not automatically apply to individual states and local jurisdictions, however.
Some national supermarket chains including Trader Joe’s, Costco and Walmart have dropped the mask requirement for fully vaccinated customers, though store officials said they will not be asking for proof of vaccination.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the chains should have only lifted the requirements for those states where the mask mandate has been lifted, and not in California.
“I’m frankly surprised at Trader Joe’s for going against what their national office is saying,” Ferrer said. ” … This is going to be pretty easy for businesses and customers, residents and visitors to understand, because there’s one standard for the whole state, and it requires that we continue to wear our masks until June 15.”
She added that health department officials would be “out and about” this week to communicate clearly that the mask requirement was still in effect.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles County reported 161 new cases of COVID-19 and four additional deaths Monday, with those relatively low numbers reflecting reporting delays over the weekend.
According to state figures, there were 338 people hospitalized in the county due to COVID-19 as of Monday, up from 322 the day before. Of those patients, 69 were in intensive care, up from 68.
Monday’s figures brought the county’s totals to 1,237,561 cases and 24,097 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
More than 6,643,000 test results have been reported, with 17% of people testing positive. The daily positivity rate over a seven-day average remained 0.4% as of Monday, the department said.
Ferrer said Los Angeles County has seen positive trends across the board, with outbreaks in work settings dropping from about 200 per week during the height of the pandemic to about 24 a week now, an 88% decrease.
More than 44% of county residents are now fully vaccinated, Ferrer said, with more than 9 million total doses delivered. She added that the county was making good progress on vaccinating young people now that residents age 12 and over are eligible for the shots, with no appointments necessary at most sites.
As of late Friday, 15,727 teens aged 12-15 were vaccinated, 3% of county residents in that age group. And 95,396 teens aged 16 and 17 have received at least one dose of vaccine — or 38% of that age group.
Ferrer also touted the county’s community initiatives to get teenagers vaccinated. Those include pop-up clinics at 200 Los Angeles Unified School District sites. Of existing school-based clinics, 82% are in so-called “low- resource” ZIP codes, officials said.
Some 755 sites are offering vaccinations across the county, Ferrer said.
Health officials said inspectors have been following up to ensure businesses are following the health safety protocols since the county entered the least-restrictive yellow tier of the state’s economic reopening system. Inspectors visited 304 restaurants over the weekend of May 8-9 and issued only one citation, they said.
Inspectors also visited 29 bars, 13 breweries, wineries, or tasting rooms, 27 retail sales establishments, 51 gyms and fitness centers, 77 hair salons or barbershops, 99 food markets, and 86 personal care businesses, and overall found very good compliance with the health officer order.