Thousands of students in Los Angeles County returned to school Monday without the COVID-19-inspired requirement of wearing a mask indoors
The state and LA County both lifted the indoor mask mandate effective Saturday, March 12, so Monday marked the first full school day without the rule. Masks are still “strongly recommended,” but not mandated. Individual school districts, however, are permitted to maintain the mandate if they see fit.
County health officials continue to urge parents to get eligible children vaccinated against the coronavirus. This month, 921 school vaccination sites are scheduled, with 89% of them located in hard-hit community areas, including the Antelope Valley.
According to the county Department of Public Health, local schools continue to see a decline in the number of positive tests and test positivity for their students and staff. Between Feb. 28 and March 4, over 470,000 tests were administered at K-12 schools across the county with 1,381 positive tests, resulting in a test positivity rate of 0.3%.
Meanwhile, the number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals continues to fall, dipping below the 500 mark to reach 491, according to state figures. That’s down from 537 on Sunday. The number of those patients in intensive care was 98, down from 107 on Sunday. The hospitalization number has been declining steadily since reaching more than 4,800 in mid-January, at the height of the Omicron-fueled winter surge.
“The declines reflect decreases in community transmission and have resulted in reduced stress across our health care system allowing health care providers to return to providing a full range of essential prevention and treatment services,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrers said in a statement. “Keeping transmission as low as possible is key to protecting both our health care system and vulnerable residents. This will require a willingness to continue sensible protections that dampen spread of the virus.
“While masking indoors is no longer required, given continued substantial transmission, wearing masks when in close contact with others in public spaces, remains a very important layer of protection, as is being fully vaccinated and boosted,” Ferrer said.
The county reported 1,427 new COVID infections and 40 new deaths over the past two days, bringing its cumulative totals to 2,813,689 cases and 31,315 fatalities. The rolling seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.6% as of Monday, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
L.A. County health officials said they are working to increase the number of providers who can offer residents access to anti-COVID therapeutics, while also striving to raise awareness about their availability. According to the Department of Public Health, the oral medications Paxlovid and Molnupiravir are prescription drugs that must be taken within five days of COVID symptoms developing. Paxlovid is available for anyone age 12 and older who weighs more than 88 pounds. Molnupiravir is available for anyone 18 and over.
A third medication, Evulsheld, is given through an injection and is available for people 12 and over who have not been exposed to the virus and are unable to get a COVID vaccine for medical reasons.