While local agencies await action from Gov. Gavin Newsom on the future of mask mandates, coronavirus enforcement and workplace safety, the pandemic appeared to continuing to ease its grip on Southern California.

Los Angeles County reported 240 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths on Sunday, May 16, though health officials said the number of cases and deaths reported likely reflect reporting delays over the weekend.

Sunday’s figures brought the county’s totals to 1,237,411 cases and 24,094 fatalities since the pandemic began, according to the county Department of Public Health.

Newsom said his office has been talking with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health officers and other states since the CDC’s announcement Thursday calling for fully vaccinated people to skip face coverings and social distancing in most situations.

The agency’s guidelines still call for people to wear masks in crowded indoor settings, such as buses, planes, hospitals and prisons, and says residents should follow local rules.

But Newsom says he doesn’t know what the federal guidelines would look like in schools, where younger children are not yet able to get vaccinated, and what happens if businesses want to require masks. L.A. County public health officials said they were also reviewing the federal decision, and waiting for guidance from Sacramento.

According to state figures, there were 322 people hospitalized in L.A County due to COVID-19 as of Sunday, down from 325 the day before. Of those patients, 68 were in intensive care, down from 73.

More than 6,643,000 test results have been reported, with 17% of people testing positive. The daily positivity rate over a seven-day average was 0.4% as of Sunday, the department said.

“As more sectors and businesses open, and capacity increases at indoor activities, it’s very important that we continue to implement safety protocols to avoid transmission and outbreaks,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Saturday.

“At this point in time, everyone needs to adhere to required Cal/OSHA distancing and masking at all workplaces. State and county directives require that everyone wear a mask when at businesses and in crowded venues. With just 40% of LA County residents fully vaccinated, public health safety measures, including masking, distancing, and hand washing, will help us avoid additional cases.”

Health officials said inspectors have been following up to ensure businesses are following the health safety protocols since the county entered the least restrictive yellow tier of the state’s economic reopening system. Last weekend, inspectors visited 304 restaurants and issued only one citation, they said.

Inspectors also visited 29 bars, 13 breweries, wineries, or tasting rooms, 27 retail sales establishments, 51 gyms and fitness centers, 77 hair salons or barbershops, 99 food markets, and 86 personal care businesses, and overall found very good compliance with the health officer order.

On Friday, breaking ranks with her county’s public health agency, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger has called on the governor to immediately relax COVID-19 mask-wearing requirements to align with eased guidelines announced by federal authorities for fully vaccinated people.

“Los Angeles County has made tremendous progress vaccinating residents, including those in our hard-hit communities,” Barger said in a statement. “Furthermore, our positivity rate is less than 1% and our case rate remains low. While we still want to keep our communities safe, I am encouraged by the new guidance from the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and believe that the state and Los Angeles County should immediately align with the new federal recommendations.”

The CDC released guidance Thursday saying people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can largely stop wearing masks in most indoor and outdoor situations. The new CDC guidance does not completely drop mask recommendations for vaccinated people. Face coverings are still recommended in some settings — such as aboard planes and buses or in crowded settings such as hospitals.

The announcement, however, has set off confusion, since many states and local jurisdictions — including California and Los Angeles County — still have mask requirements in place. The CDC only releases general guidance, but individual jurisdictions can impose restrictions based on local virus circumstances.

Source link