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LA County Supervisor, Beverly Hills City Council publicly oppose return of indoor mask mandate

CBS News Live
CBS News Los Angeles Live

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger Monday issued a public statement opposing bringing back an indoor mask mandate, days before the county is considering re-imposing one to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Also Monday night, the Beverly Hills City Council unanimously agreed the City of Beverly Hills will not be enforcing the mandate, if it comes back to the county. 

The item was brought forward for discussion by Mayor Lili Bosse.

The City of Beverly Hills falls under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH). The City of Beverly Hills would be included in any new health order issued, but may or may not choose to utilize staff resources to enforce it.

"I feel it is our job to lead and I support the power of choice," said Mayor Lili Bosse. "Our job is to be proactive and public about what we believe. This is a united City Council and community that cares about health. We are not where we were in 2020, and now we need to move forward as a community and be part of the solution." 

Barger said she's seen no hard evidence that such a requirement would curb the spread. 

In an open letter sent to her Fifth District constituents, Barger said she believes "masking mandates are polarizing and unenforceable," and said she does not believe such a move would have any major impact.

"I have not seen any empirical data that conclusively shows that masking mandates make a difference in decreasing or stopping COVID-19 transmission rates," Barger wrote. "An analysis of Alameda County's June 2022 masking mandate, in fact, concluded it had no significant impact in comparison to its surrounding counties that did not impose a masking mandate. Alameda County dropped this mandate after only three weeks."

She added that a mandate "will not make a meaningful improvement to the underlying systemic healthcare inequities that are the true drivers of inequitable rates of COVID-19 deaths and long-term, negative effects."

Barger's comments come just days ahead of an anticipated Thursday decision on a possible new masking mandate for indoor public spaces in Los Angeles County. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer has said that if the county remains in the "high" virus-activity level as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two consecutive weeks, the mask mandate would be re-imposed. The county is set to reach that two-week mark on Thursday, meaning the mandate would take effect Friday.

Ferrer indicated last week, however, that there might be a delay in imposing the mandate, depending on the trends in new COVID infections and hospitalizations. She noted during a Thursday media briefing that average daily case numbers appeared to be leveling off, and the number of people hospitalized dropped over the weekend.

She told reporters that if the county sees a "steep decline" in case and hospital numbers, "we are likely to want to take a pause on moving too quickly on universal indoor masking."

Los Angeles County moved into the CDC's "high" level of COVID-19 community activity earlier this month, when the average daily rate of virus-related hospital admissions rose to 10.5 per 100,000 residents, surpassing the threshold of 10 per 100,000. On Thursday, Ferrer said the admission rate over the past week rose to 11.4 per 100,000.

On Friday, however, the county saw a sharp drop in the number of COVID- positive patients hospitalized in the county, with the figure dropping by about 80 people to reach 1,247. The number fell again on Saturday to an even 1,200. Updated figures were not immediately available on Monday.

Ferrer is expected to give an update Tuesday during the county Board of Supervisors meeting.

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