Days after most spectators at Super Bowl LVI were seen ignoring the face-covering requirement, Los Angeles County Wednesday will join the state in lifting COVID-19 mandates that people wear masks at outdoor mega-events and outdoors at K-12 schools and child care centers.
Lax adherence to the mask requirement at SoFi Stadium was an issue throughout the recently concluded NFL season, however, the county insisted that the rule remain in place amid elevated COVID virus-related hospitalizations.
But that will change Wednesday, when the outdoor mask-wearing requirement is officially lifted. Wednesday will be the seventh consecutive day the number of COVID-19-positive patients in the county remained below 2,500 — the benchmark previously announced by county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. As of Tuesday, there were 1,995 COVID-positive hospital patients in the county, according to state figures.
Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the outdoor mask requirement will be formally lifted at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
The move will coincide with the state’s Wednesday lifting of its indoor mask-wearing requirement for fully vaccinated residents. Los Angeles County, however, will maintain its indoor mask mandate for all people, regardless of vaccination status.
Ferrer said again Tuesday that the county’s indoor masking rule will remain in place until the county’s virus-transmission rate falls to the “moderate” level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and stays there for two weeks. Ferrer said the county’s rate is declining, and at the current pace, it should reach the “moderate” level by March 16, meaning the indoor mask requirement could be lifted by March 30.
She said she understands residents’ desire to shed face coverings, but the “issue is one of timing.” Ferrer said masks are a critical level of protection when virus transmission remains high.
The 1,995 virus-positive hospital patients reported Tuesday was down from 2,054 on Monday. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care units was 423 as of Tuesday, down from 437 on Monday.
Hospitalizations had climbed to over 4,800 in mid-January at the height of the Omicron-variant-fueled winter surge in cases.
The county on Tuesday reported 55 more COVID-19-related deaths, raising the overall virus death toll to 29,980.
Another 2,133 COVID cases were announced, giving the county a cumulative total of 2,766,161 from throughout the pandemic.
The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 3.2% as of Tuesday.
Ferrer urged anyone who attended the Super Bowl or watched the game in a crowded location with unmasked people to consider getting tested for COVID.
“To the many residents who watched the Super Bowl this past weekend at SoFi stadium, with friends and family at your home, or at a local bar or restaurant, please get tested if you were in crowded places where many were unmasked,” she said in a statement. “This is particularly important for anyone experiencing illness symptoms. We would like to avoid the increases in cases that have sometimes occurred following large sporting events. For those celebrating at the Rams Super Bowl victory parade tomorrow, being cautious still makes sense so please continue to wear masks if in close contact with many others.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last week that the indoor mask mandate in most other locations would be lifted for vaccinated people as of Wednesday morning, noting a 65% drop in the virus infection rate since the peak of the winter surge caused by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, as well as a stabilization in hospitalization numbers.
But he stressed that “unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors.”
The mask-wearing requirement will also remain in effect for everyone in other select indoor locations — schools, public transit centers, airports, emergency shelters, health care facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care and senior-care facilities.
Unvaccinated people will have to continue wearing masks in indoor settings such as retail stores, restaurants, theaters and government offices. It will be left to individual businesses to enforce the rule.
On Monday, the state announced it will continue requiring indoor masking at schools until at least Feb. 28, when health officials plan to reassess pandemic metrics and determine if that rule can be lifted. The announcement came despite earlier indications from Newsom that the school mask rule would be lifted, but he received some pushback from teachers’ unions.
The state’s decision to lift the indoor mask-wearing mandate in most locations will affect counties that do not have local mandates of their own governing face coverings — such as Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties, and now Los Angeles. With the mandate lifted, Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure theme parks in Orange County will no longer require mask-wearing by vaccinated patrons either indoors or outdoors beginning Thursday. But masks will be required for all guests in select indoor settings, such as Disney shuttles and “in health settings, such as in First Aid.”