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LA County Recommends Indoor Mask Wearing As Delta Variant Circulates

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The city of Pasadena Tuesday joined Los Angeles County health officials in recommending that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors due to increased circulation of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

Inside A Sprouts Farmers Market Grocery Store
An employee wears a protective mask while sanitizing a cash register area inside a Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store in West Covina, California, U.S., on Friday, May 29, 2020. In the first quarter, sales rose 16% to $1.6 billion, Sprouts' best growth since 2015 and the company plans to add 20 stores this year. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, Delta variants comprised nearly half of all variants sequenced locally in the week ended June 12. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that Delta variants are now responsible for about one in every five new infections across the country, up from approximately one in 10 the week before.

Due to the rate of spread of the variant, first detected in India, health officials have issued a strong recommendation for people to wear masks indoors in settings such a grocery or retail stores; theaters and family entertainment centers and workplaces where vaccination status is not immediately known.

Dr. Ali Jamehdor, director of Emergency Services at Dignity Health Saint Mary, said there was about a six-week period where he did not see a single COVID case. However, with more cases popping back up again, he cautioned people against throwing away their face coverings just yet.

"If you're outside walking around, there really is no need for a mask, we know that now," he said. "If you're indoors, you don't know the people that are there, you don't know who's been there before, put a mask on. It gives you a layer of protection, and it gives other people a layer of protection and it could get us to a better place."

But, Providence St. Joseph's Dr. Michael Daugnault disagreed.

"If there's not that many people left to be infected and there's not much Delta variant here, I think it's a little bit of a false alarm at this point," he said.

Public Health said fully vaccinated people appeared to be well protected from infections with Delta variants, however those with only one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines were not as well protected.

On Monday, L.A. County reported 259 new cases of COVID-19 and three new deaths. On Tuesday, the county reported 321 new cases and three new deaths, bringing the countywide total to 1,249,835 reported cases and 24,482 deaths. There were 229 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, 24% of whom were in intensive care units.

As for the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti said it would be following the county's indoor mask recommendations.

"This is becoming a pandemic among the unvaccinated, and this Delta variant is stronger, it's more deadly, it spreads more quickly and it's, right now, on the verge of becoming the majority of cases here in L.A. county."

Currently, the new indoor mask guidance remains a recommendation and not a requirement. And while medical experts disagree on whether to resume wearing face coverings at indoor public locations, they all agreed that the best defense against the virus was to get fully vaccinated.

"Probably over 10 [new cases] now over the past week and a half, and they have all been unvaccinated," Jamehdor said.

Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties said they would not be making the same recommendation.

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