Indoor mask-wearing is no longer mandatory in Los Angeles County, thanks to a new health order that took effect Friday, March 4, in response to federal data showing a decreased impact of COVID-19 on the county’s health-care system. [View the order here.]
Effective at midnight, mask-wearing went from mandatory to “strongly recommended” in most indoor spaces across the county. Masking is still required in higher-risk settings, including health care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
Indoor masks also continue to be required on K-12 school campuses, although the county and state will lift that requirement on March 12. Despite the easing of the requirement, county officials noted that individual businesses can still opt to require face coverings. People are also free to wear masks whenever they see fit, particularly in crowded settings or while interacting with people at higher risk of severe illness from the virus.
Ferrer warned Thursday that despite the lifting of COVID-related mandates, people shouldn’t think that life is completely returning to normal.
“It’s very tempting to think the pandemic is over and we can return to the way things were before the pandemic,” Ferrer said. “And while transmission has greatly slowed and we’re in a much better place with our powerful tools that help so many avoid the worst effects of this virus, there do continue to be thousands of people whose lives, families and work are disrupted each day because either they or someone close to them is newly infected with COVID-19. And for some of these people, their infection can and will lead to more severe illness.”
The mask mandate was lifted following data released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that officially moved the county out of the CDC’s “high” virus activity category and into the “low” category. The CDC updates its county-level data every Thursday. The CDC designations are based largely on the number of new virus-related hospital admissions and on the percentage of hospital beds being occupied by COVID-positive patients, along with a county’s overall rate of new COVID cases.
Ferrer noted that people attending indoor mega-events of 1,000 or more people — such as sporting events — will still be required to show proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test to be admitted. Vaccine verification or a negative test will also still be required for workers at health care facilities and congregate-care facilities. But the county has dropped its requirement that people show proof of vaccination to patronize indoor portions of bars, nightclubs and lounges or outdoor mega-events.