Citing a lower COVID-19 transmission rate, the Los Angeles County Public Health Department on Wednesday announced it is eliminating the mask requirement for vaccinated workers and customers at indoor businesses and venues.
The change for places like bars, restaurants, gyms and offices goes into effect Friday, Feb. 25.
“As transmission drops and there is less virus circulating, some tools may afford significant protections against the very worst risks associated with COVID,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Because vaccines are one of these tools, with lower rates of hospital admissions and COVID hospitalizations, it is appropriate in settings verifying vaccination or negative test status, that we transition to strongly recommending masking instead of requiring masking.”
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn said the change is a “welcome step in the right direction.”
“I still think that the better and less confusing approach would be to fully align with the state of California, but this is a welcome step in the right direction as our cases decline and we learn to live with this virus,” Hahn said in a statement.
L.A. County’s rule change comes shortly after the state recently made indoor masking optional for all vaccinated individuals in most indoor settings.
Customers still need to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a recent negative COVID-19 test. Those who are not fully vaccinated or do not show proof of vaccination are required to wear a mask while indoors, except when eating or drinking.
The vaccines remain highly effective at slowing COVID-19 spread and preventing severe illness, the public health department said. For the week ending Feb. 12, county residents who were unvaccinated were more than two and half times more likely to be infected, the county health officials said. Unvaccinated people were also five times more likely to be hospitalized compared to fully vaccinated residents. Additionally, fully vaccinated and boosted individuals were more than 13 times less likely to end up hospitalized.
Gregory Cornfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.