Los Angeles County will again require all residents to wear masks indoors in public spaces, regardless of vaccination status, amid a rapid rise in coronavirus cases and concerns over the delta variant.
County Health Officer Muntu Davis told a virtual press conference Thursday that a public health order requiring masks indoors will go into effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m.
Some exceptions will apply, but the order will be similar to masking requirements that were in place prior to the state's June 15 reopening, he said.
The order comes just two weeks after the nation's most populous county recommended masks as a precautionary measure.
Davis did not say when the order might be lifted, but it will be in place "until we see improvements in our community transmission of COVID-19."
He said the measure is proactive since waiting until there is a high level of community transmission would be too late. Wearing a mask indoors with others reduces the risk of both getting and transmitting the virus.
"Over the past few weeks, we've seen a rapid and sustained increase in the number of new cases reported each day," Davis said.
Hospitalizations are slowly increasing, and while deaths have remained low, he said that could change as hospitalizations rise.
There were more than 400 people hospitalized for COVID-19 in the county Wednesday, with 1,315 infections, marking the sixth consecutive day of new cases topping 1,000.
The new order goes above and beyond what is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has not changed its guidance since saying vaccinated people do not need to wear masks.
But some public health experts warned that without requiring proof of vaccination, the CDC was inviting unvaccinated people to also go maskless, increasing the community risk and removing incentives for the holdouts to get vaccinated.
The rapid spread of the highly contagious delta variant, primarily among the unvaccinated, is also a concern to officials. The current vaccines on the market are effective against preventing illness and are highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, but the more people who are unvaccinated, the more dangerous the variant can be.