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LA County Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate After Being Reclassified As Having 'Low' COVID-19 Activity

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County formally lifted its indoor mask-wearing mandate Friday, for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals, after it was reclassified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday as having "low" COVID-19 activity.

People shop with face coverings in Newhall, CA.  LA County may issue a public health order on Friday to end the requirement to wear masks indoors.
Santa Clarita, CA - March 03: Customer Erika Bernabe (right) is helped by Mayte Ramirez and Edith Matus at Jazmin's Bakery on Main Street in Newhall, Thursday, Mar 3, 2022. The CDCs new COVID 19 thresholds are expected to put LA County in a medium and low transmission phase after months in high transmission, and open the door to a revised LA County public health order Friday that would end the requirement to wear masks indoors. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images)

Masking in most indoor public spaces -- such as restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, retail stores and nail salons -- will no longer be required regardless of vaccination status. Patrons will no longer have to provide proof of vaccination. The mandate was lifted by the L.A. County Department of Public Health at 12:01 a.m.

"It's a lot better, it's kind of hard getting your workout in when you have your mask on, cause obviously you're breathing heavy throughout the day," Hector Mendez told CBSLA at a 24 Hour Fitness in Downey on Friday. "Certain workouts take a lot more air intake...for example today, we'll do a little bit of cardio towards the end, and, it's kind of hard to run in a mask, it's kind of restrictive."

Individual businesses will have the choice, however, of requiring masks if they so choose. The restaurant Guacamaya Oasis in Downey was asking customers to wear masks while they are standing in the food line, but could take them off once they sat down.

Masking will also continue to be required statewide in higher-risk settings, including health care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities. Indoor masks also continue to be required on K-12 school campuses, although the county and state will lift that requirement on March 12. The policy, however, is expected to remain in place in the L.A. Unified School District until the end of the school year.

L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer also noted Thursday that people attending indoor mega-events of 1,000 or more people -- such as sporting events -- will still be required to show proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test to be admitted.

On Feb. 16, the state of California lifted mask requirements in most indoor public spaces – such as restaurants and retail stores -- for those who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Nine days later, on Feb. 25, L.A. County also relaxed its own such restrictions, but again, only for those who are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, a city of L.A. ordinance that took effect Nov. 8 remains in effect, requiring people over age 12 to show proof of vaccination before patronizing indoor restaurants, gyms, entertainment and recreational facilities and personal care establishments. It's unclear if the city of L.A. will loosen those requirements. L.A. City Council President Nury Martinez's office said Thursday the city is working with county public health officials and city departments to "figure out next steps"

Despite being lifted, mask-wearing will continue to be "strongly recommended," particularly in crowded settings or while interacting with people at higher risk of severe illness from the virus.

On Thursday, the county reported 59 new COVID-19 deaths, along with 1,605 new cases. The number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals has fallen to 852.

(© Copyright 2022 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

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