A growing chorus is being heard from public health officials across the country this week and contains only one word: “Masks.”
Los Angeles County Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer told reporters today that everyone aged two and over should wear a mask inside indoor gatherings and indoor settings such as business, restaurant and school.
Similarly, last Friday, a group of Gulf health officials issued a rare joint statement strongly recommending – but not requiring – residents to wear face masks indoors again.
Santa Clara County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han told the San Francisco Chronicle, “If you’ve recently decided not to wear a mask in an indoor public place, now is the time to start again.”
A little further south, the Pacific Grove Unified School District, CA in Monterey, decided on Monday that all students and staff would be required to wear masks indoors from Tuesday if infections increased there.
The school districts of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois have done the same this week.
Top officials in the Biden administration warned Wednesday that one-third of Americans live in communities that the CDC considers high-risk (orange on the map below) and recommends making masks mandatory in those areas.
“We urge local leaders to use mask-like prevention techniques in public indoor settings and to increase access to testing and treatment,” said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About two weeks ago, the CDC issued a new recommendation that all two-year-olds wear masks “in the interior of public transport (such as airplanes, trains, etc.) and transport hubs (such as airports, stations, etc.). .) “CDC encourages people to wear face masks” in crowded or poorly ventilated places, such as at airport jetways.
New York City, which had some of the most stringent requirements last year, will not return to masking, although it has entered the high-risk segment this week amid an increase in hospital admissions. Mayor Eric Adams has said he does not want the mask to be mandatory, although the CDC has recommended it.
According to the New York Times, Adams said, “If every variant comes, we go into shutdown thinking, we panic, we’re not going to act as a city.”
Will he consider them for school? “No,” Adams replied.
The answer is different in LA, where Ferrero-Waldner repeated last week প্ল plus some version of what he said today: “Once we are nominated as a high community level we will return those masks to indoor needs.”
The county isn’t there yet, but due to the increasing rate of covid in Los Angeles, it has been moved from the “low” virus level of the CDC to the “medium” today.
According to federal and county data, the local seven-day rate of new covid cases has risen to 202 per 100,000 residents, up from about 176 per 100,000 last week. With numbers above 200, the county is now considered a “moderate” community level, a title that comes with recommendations for higher precautions against the spread of the virus.
However, the move will not bring about any immediate change in local health regulations. The LA has already raised precautionary recommendations that are in line with CDC guidelines – such as masking in public transit and high-risk settings such as hospitals, doctor’s offices and homeless shelters.
“We hope that by implementing strong community prevention measures, we will be able to avoid going to higher levels,” Ferrer told reporters.
This means “businesses and individuals should not move away from strong security measures,” he said, adding that this includes indoor masking.
According to CDC guidelines, counties in the middle division will move higher if new virus-related hospital admissions reach 10 per 100,000 residents, or if 10% of county staff hospital beds are occupied by covid-positive patients.
Ferrer said today that the county’s new covid admission rate is 3.4 per 100,000 residents, and the hospital bed occupancy rate by covid-positive patients is just under 1.7%.
About a week ago, however, people with covid in the area began to receive daily hospital admissions. From 252 people last Thursday, they have had 312 virus-positive patients at the county hospital this Monday, 327 on Tuesday, 363 on Wednesday and 379 today. Although the numbers are still relatively small, this is an increase of about 50% in one week.
In the same period, the number of cases jumped from 3407 to 4725 last Thursday, an increase of 38% in one week.
The average daily rate of people tested positive for the virus, although still relatively low, increased last day’s 7-day average test positivity from 2.6% to 34% to 3.5% today.
Since hospital admissions usually reverse the infection within a few weeks, increasing cases and test positivity indicate a significant increase in covid-related hospital admissions by the end of the month.
City News Service contributed to this report.