As Covid cases rise, LA County extends mask mandate for public transit

With a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 cases — enough to push Los Angeles County to the “medium” virus risk level — the requirement to wear a mask on public transportation and in transportation hubs has was officially extended on Friday in the county.

The county issued a health order in late April requiring masks on transit vehicles and at hubs such as airports and train stations. The requirement, however, was due to expire in a few days. The county’s public health department announced Friday that the mandate is being extended an additional 30 days or until the county sees a sharp drop in virus transmission, whichever comes first.

Masks were previously required nationwide on public transit and in transportation facilities, but a federal judge overturned the requirement last month. The county initially followed the decision and the mandate was dropped locally, but when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chose to appeal the decision, the county issued a new health order reinstating the requirement locally. .

The requirement concerns people in trains, subways, buses, taxis, transport vehicles with driver and in bus stations, metro stations and inland port terminals. It also affects airports, but does not extend to airplanes, which are under federal jurisdiction.

The extension of the transit masking requirement comes a day after the county moved from the CDC’s “low” community virus activity category to “medium.” The change came when the county’s cumulative weekly rate of new COVID cases topped 200 per 100,000 people, hitting 202 per 100,000.

The move to the “medium” category did not trigger any immediate changes in the county’s health regulations, which already maintained enhanced precautionary recommendations consistent with CDC guidelines in the “medium” rating. These include requiring masks on public transport and in high-risk settings such as hospitals and homeless shelters, and maintaining widespread availability of vaccines and access to testing, including including home testing.

The county still does not mandate mask wearing in all indoor public places, but it is strongly recommended. Masks would become mandatory indoors if the county slips into the “high” COVID level. Reaching that mark would require a sharp increase in COVID-related hospitalizations.

The number of COVID-positive patients has increased in recent weeks, and the percentage of emergency room visits associated with the virus has climbed to 5% in the past week, from 4% the previous week. But so far, overall hospital stats are still well within CDC parameters for the “medium” COVID level.

According to CDC guidelines, counties in the “medium” category will move to “high” if the rate of new virus-related hospital admissions reaches 10 per 100,000 population, or if 10% of hospital beds staffed with County staff are busy with COVID-positive patients.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday that the current rate of new COVID-related admissions in the county is 3.4 per 100,000 population, and the rate of hospital beds being occupied by COVID-positive patients is around 1.7%.

Ferrer said she remains “hopeful” the county will avoid sliding into the “high” community level of COVID, but only if residents and businesses don’t “fear” the safety practices “that are known to reduce transmission,” such as indoor masking and making sure people are up to date on vaccinations.

“We know what works – masking, testing and vaccination, and the systems and policies that support the use of these and other effective safety measures,” she said in a Friday. communicated. “If each of us takes advantage of good access to these effective resources, I hope we can once again slow transmission, prevent the strain on our healthcare system and protect each other.”

The county reported 3,180 new COVID infections on Friday, bringing the overall total for the entire pandemic to 2,929,950. Ten more virus-related deaths were also reported, bringing the cumulative local death toll to 32,074.

As of Friday, there were 401 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, up from 379 on Thursday and the highest number since late March. The number of those patients treated in intensive care was 47, up from 53 a day earlier. Health officials have noted in recent weeks that the vast majority of hospitalized COVID-positive patients were in fact admitted for reasons other than the virus, with many not discovering they were infected until they were tested at the hospital. hospital.

The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus rose to 3.7%, from 3.5% a day earlier.

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