The day Los Angeles County has been awaiting for nearly a year-and-a-half is finally here. Mask mandates are mostly lifted and life will get back to some normalcy after the coronavirus pandemic shook us to the core—shutting down a wide swath of the economy. So, what exactly are the new county health guidelines in public settings?
As of June 15, masks are no longer required for fully vaccinated individuals (meaning two weeks after your final vaccination) except in some settings where masks are required for everyone regardless of vaccination status.
That means masks are required for everyone using public transit and their hubs—meaning train stations, bus depots, airports and ferry terminals. Yes, that includes ride shares.
Indoors, masks are required—at least for now—for everyone in K-12 schools and childcare and youth settings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expected to update its guidelines soon, lifting that requirement.
Masking is still required for everyone in healthcare settings including long-term care facilities. Everyone must be masked in state and local correctional facilities, detention centers, homeless shelters, emergency shelters and cooling centers.
All of those guidelines are for the fully vaccinated.
Masks are still required for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Dr. Muntu Davis, speaking last week at a virtual town hall, described examples for non-inoculated people requiring masks. They would require face coverings at retail businesses, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, in meetings and at state and local government offices.
“In settings where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals, businesses, venues or hosts may choose one of three options: The first is to provide information to all patrons, guests or attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they’re in compliance prior to entry,” Davis said. “They can also implement vaccine verification to determine whether that individual is required to wear a mask. An example would be checking a vaccination record. The other can be to require that all patrons wear a mask.”
Also of note: “No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry to a business,” Davis added.
Large-scale events are now allowed, although if more than 5,000 people are expected to attend, organizers must verify attendees are either fully vaccinated or have tested negative within 72 hours of the event’s start time.
Events of more than 10,000 attendees can follow the above guidelines or allow unvaccinated and untested individuals to wear a mask at all times.
“We do understand that everyone is at a different stage in their health journey,” Davis said. “There are folks who have not yet determined that vaccination against COVID-19 is right for them or there are those who cannot get the vaccine for medical reasons.” For those, Davis recommended best practices of wearing a mask and socializing outdoors to help prevent the spread of the disease.
Mask rules for employees were expected to be updated by Cal/OSHA (California Division Of Occupational Safety & Health), but as of June 15 are still mandatory for workplaces.
“As California reopens and many county protocols are retired, protecting LACO workers is still a top priority,” Liza Frias, LA County Department of Public Health director of environmental health, said. “To make sure the communities hardest hit during the worst of the pandemic stay safe as physical distancing requirements and capacity limits for customers are lifted, we recommend businesses continue to implement best practices”—physical distancing and mask requirements—“that is until Cal-OSHA meets this week to develop a new set of standards expected to more fully align with the state’s masking guidance.” If new standards are adopted, they would go into effect June 20. In the meantime, all workers indoors must continue to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status. The exception includes when a worker is alone in a room, eating or drinking, unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability or because a mask interferes with a work task. In these cases, a face shield or distancing is required.
The easing of physical distancing, business capacity and mask restrictions would not be possible without the diligence of the public, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, LA County Director of Public Health.
“This is the result of every person and business who continues to make prevention a priority,” Ferrer said. “It’s the result of everyone who’s gotten a vaccine or has shared their vaccination story to help someone else get vaccinated. You all deserve credit for this remarkable achievement and we celebrate you as we approach this new phase in our recovery after a very difficult and devastating year-and-a-half.”