A doctor's mask and gloves. Photo via Pixabay.

Los Angeles County could be on the verge of easing its indoor mask-wearing requirement, with Supervisor Janice Hahn announcing that vaccinated people will soon be able to shed face coverings in indoor locations that verify COVID-19 vaccination status.

On her Twitter page, Hahn wrote that the county Department of Public Health will issue an updated Health Officer Order this week, possibly taking effect Friday, “allowing vaccinated people to take off their masks indoors at places that check for proof of vaccination. This puts us significantly closer to aligning with the state.”

The Department of Public Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Such a move would be a major easing of the county’s strict indoor mask mandate, which requires people to don face coverings in most indoor settings regardless of vaccination status. The county rule remains in force, even though the state lifted its indoor mask mandate last week.

County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer previously outlined metrics that would have to be met for the county to drop its indoor mask mandate — metrics that would likely keep the rule in place until the end of March.

But dissent grew among the county Board of Supervisors last week when Hahn joined her colleague Kathryn Barger in asking that the county align with the state on the indoor masking issue.

Although the majority of the five-member board continued to support the county’s masking rule, Ferrer told the panel last Tuesday that the health agency was exploring the possibility of easing the indoor mandate at places where other “layers of protection” are in place, such as mandatory COVID vaccinations or testing.

Previously, Ferrer said the indoor mask rule would remain in place until:

— the county’s level of COVID transmission falls to the “moderate” level as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and remains there for two weeks; OR

— COVID vaccines have been available to residents under age 5 for at least eight weeks; AND

— no emerging COVID “variants of concern” have been identified that could spark another surge in cases.

According to Ferrer, reaching the CDC’s “moderate” level of transmission requires the county to have a seven-day cumulative infection rate of less than 50 per 100,000 residents. As of Monday, the county’s rate was 133 per 100,000 residents.

Ferrer noted that the county’s rate has been steadily declining, and at the current pace, the county would reach the “moderate” designation by March 16, meaning the indoor mask mandate would be lifted by March 30.

Barger argued, however, that maintaining stricter rules than the state created confusion among residents and contributed to a lack of compliance — which was on full display during the recent Super Bowl in Inglewood, where fans almost universally violated the county’s outdoor mask-wearing mandate.

That outdoor masking mandate was lifted last Wednesday — three days after the Super Bowl — for outdoor “mega-events” and outdoor activities at schools and child care centers. Masks are still required indoors at schools under a state order that is scheduled to be reviewed again at the end of the month.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County reported another 36 COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, raising the overall pandemic death toll to 30,411.

Another 1,188 cases were also confirmed, giving the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 2,785,449. The rolling average daily rate of people testing for the virus was 1.9% as of Tuesday.

According to state figures, there were 1,276 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, down from 1,310 on Monday. Of those patients, 279 were being treated in intensive care.

According to figures released last week, 82% of eligible residents aged 5 and over have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, while 74% are fully vaccinated, and 36% are fully vaccinated and received a booster shot.

Of the county’s overall 10.3 million population, 78% have had at least one dose, 70% are fully vaccinated and 34% have received a booster shot.

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