LOS ANGELES (CNS) — COVID-19 masking rules will ease in Los Angeles County starting Friday, with health officials announcing that they will lift the requirement for face coverings in correctional facilities and shelters for the homeless, while wearing masks indoors is generally a matter of individual concern. will be preferred.
The provincial health ministry has announced it will align with new state guidelines announced Tuesday, easing mask-wearing rules that were in place for most of the year in response to rising COVID cases.
The new state rules will come into effect on Friday, eliminating mask-wearing in correctional facilities, homeless and emergency shelters, and in refrigeration centers. The relaxed rules will affect counties where COVID activity is rated “low” — covering most of the state, including Los Angeles County.
Masks remain mandatory in healthcare and long-term care facilities.
“This shift in masking is consistent with California’s SMARTER plan and gives Californians the information to consider when making a mask-wear decision, including the extent of community dissemination and personal risk,” director of the California Department of Public Health and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said in a statement released Wednesday announcing the change.
In countries categorized as ‘low’ COVID activity, wearing a mask becomes a matter of personal preference or individual risk level. People considered to be at higher risk of infection or serious illness should consider wearing a mask in crowded public places, according to the state.
Los Angeles County was already preparing to relax guidelines for wearing masks indoors based on reduced COVID transmission levels. The county planned to make the move as the weekly infection rate fell below 100 new cases per 100,000 residents.
With the county approaching that threshold and given the state’s changing guidelines, the county announced Wednesday that it will change its guideline on Friday, meaning it “will shift from strongly recommending indoor masks for the general public to individual preference, unless required by the site.”
Masks are currently still mandatory on buses, trains and other modes of transport, although Barbara Ferrer, the county’s health director, has said that requirement could be lifted soon. Ferrer is expected to discuss the issue at its weekly COVID briefing on Thursday, according to the health ministry.
The province has been experiencing a downward trend in COVID infections and hospitalizations for weeks.
On Wednesday, the number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals fell to 573, from 633 on Tuesday, according to state figures. Of those patients, 83 were treated in intensive care units, up from 69 on Tuesday.
County officials have said that about 43% of patients with COVID were actually hospitalized due to a virus-related illness, while the rest were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested on admission.
The provincial health ministry reported a further 1,451 COVID infections on Wednesday, taking the cumulative total for the entire pandemic to 3,444,076. The case numbers officially reported by the county are also considered low due to the popularity of home tests, the results of which are generally not passed on to the county.
A further 12 COVID-related deaths were also reported on Wednesday, bringing the province to a total death toll of 33,509.
The average daily number of people who tested positive for the virus was 4.6% on Wednesday.
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