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Los Angeles County—the nation’s most populous county and one of two places in California that still requires masks indoors—plans to let vaccinated people take off their masks later this week in indoor spaces that require proof of Covid-19 vaccination, county supervisor Janice Hahn tweeted Tuesday, a shift for one of the nation’s final large mask mandate holdouts.
Hahn, part of a five-member board of supervisors that governs Los Angeles County and passes ordinances, said the change is expected to take effect Friday.
Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Health didn’t confirm the apparent policy shift Tuesday, but told Forbes it is “considering possible options” for lifting indoor mask mandates in spaces that require vaccination verification, and it will provide more information Wednesday about a new health order set to take effect Friday.
The move will put Los Angeles County “significantly closer to aligning with the state,” Hahn tweeted, referring to California’s decision to lift its statewide mandate for vaccinated people in most indoor spaces last week.
Hahn says Los Angeles County’s rule will only apply to spaces with coronavirus vaccination requirements, such as restaurants, bars and gyms, meaning grocery stores and other spaces that do not require proof of vaccination will continue to require masks.
California has maintained some of the nation’s strictest mask and vaccine requirements throughout the pandemic, and Los Angeles is one of California’s stricter counties. Despite lifting its indoor mandate for most businesses, California still requires masks in crowded indoor areas such as schools, though many school districts have lifted their outdoor mask mandates, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest school system. Los Angeles County also lifted mask mandates for outdoor “mega” events such as concerts and sporting events last week. The shift away from mandates comes as California’s Covid-19 positivity rates continue to dip. A daily average of 3.6% of the state’s Covid-19 tests came back positive over the last week, compared to 26% a month ago during the omicron-fueled surge, according to the state’s Department of Public Health. Last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) also announced a new plan to begin “living with” endemic Covid-19: He says the state will stockpile masks, tests and vaccines to tackle any new variants of the virus on a local level, and implement temporary mask requirements in areas of high positivity when necessary.
What To Watch For
While most states have lifted their mask mandates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still recommends people wear masks indoors in areas with “substantial or high” coronavirus transmission—which applies to nearly all of the U.S. However, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said during a White House Covid-19 update last week the agency is reviewing its guidance—which is non-binding—to factor in the country’s hospital capacity.