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LA County will not reimpose indoor mask mandate

LA County will not bring back indoor mask mandate after downward trend of cases
LA County will not bring back indoor mask mandate after downward trend in cases 03:28

Los Angeles County health officials announced Thursday that they will not be reimposing an indoor mask-wearing mandate at this time due to a continued downward trend in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

"Our data indicates that we'll be moving, shortly, into that medium community level," said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Over the past week, Ferrer has said that there was the possibility of putting the mandate on hold after seeing a recent stabilizing of hospitalizations and a drop in cases. The mandate was expected to go into effect Friday.

It was set to go into effect after two weeks of the county remaining in the "high" COVID-19 activity level.  

Indoor mask mandate put on hold as COVID-19 hospitalizations decline 03:23

L.A. County returned to the "high" category two weeks ago when the average daily rate of COVID-related hospital admissions rose above 10 per 100,000 residents. As of last Thursday, the rate was 11.7 admissions per 100,000 residents.

Ferrer said that the decision to not enforce an indoor mask policy was not a political decision. 

However, there was certainly political pressure from two LA County Supervisors and members of the business community and general public. 

CBSLA Political Reporter Tom Wait asked former LA County Supervisor and professor at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, Zev Yaroslavsky, if he thought opposition from the supervisors and some in the general public played into the decision.

"I think that had some influence over it and I think frankly the downturn in the number of incidents and infections of COVID over the last few days and the last week also had a bigger influence on Barbara Ferrer's decision," Yaroslavsky said. "Barbara Ferrer is a scientist. She goes by the book. And I know that many of the decisions she's made have been controversial. The longer COVID has gone on, the more controversial her decisions have become. But she has only one interest - our public health."

Ferrer's decisions have also had a major effect on local businesses, since the beginning of the pandemic.

"Masks it's like a roller coaster and it has a direct impact on our business," said Javier Pardini, owner of Bodega Malbec Argentinian Grill.

Pardini had been waiting to hear news from L.A. County's Health Department about whether the mandatory indoor mask mandate will be reinstated.

On Tuesday, Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors that, given recent declines, "We may be positioned to pause the implementation of universal masking."

Pardini said he's glad to hear there won't be a mandate this time, but he said the possibility of it being imposed again hurt small businesses like his. 

"I already see cancellations tomorrow for big parties," he said. "When you see that, you create an instability of people's minds and they're insecure of going out to restaurant safe or not."

Los Angeles County is the only jurisdiction in the state considering a masking mandate, even though dozens of other counties are also in the CDC's "high" virus-activity level.

On Wednesday, the city of El Segundo said it would not enforce the mandate, joining the cities of Beverly Hills, Long Beach and Pasadena.

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