Long Beach says it won’t reinstate indoor mask mandate even if LA County does • Long Beach Post News

The city, instead, will continue to follow guidelines from the California Department of Public Health, which only recommend — not require — masking in most circumstances, according to the department’s Tuesday announcement. of city health.

“The Health Department strongly encourages people to practice personal responsibility and common sense measures to protect themselves, their loved ones and the wider community from COVID-19,” the Health Department said in a statement. . “People are advised to mask up indoors when in public places, take rapid tests before and three to five days after social gatherings, and choose outdoor activities when appropriate. possible.”

Masks are still required in indoor health care facilities, transit hubs, transit vehicles, airports, correctional facilities and shelters. A universal mandate would extend the requirement to all indoor public spaces, including shared office spaces, manufacturing facilities, retail stores, indoor events, indoor restaurants and bars, and schools.

Two weeks ago, with the coronavirus surging, Los Angeles County health officials announced that a universal indoor mask mandate would likely be reinstated on July 29. At the time, Long Beach health officials said they weren’t sure it would match the county.

Speaking to the Board of Overseers on Tuesday, however, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said countywide cases, hospitalizations and death counts are stabilizing and reinstatement of the mask mandate could be postponed.

The departmental decision is expected Thursday.

She, however, pointed out during her presentation that transmission of COVID-19 remains high throughout the county and that the virus is still one of the leading causes of death, killing more people in the first six months of the year. as drug overdoses, the flu and traffic. combined accidents.

Earlier, Ferrer said the indoor mask mandate would be reinstated if the county remained in the “high” virus activity category – with a new virus-related daily hospital admission rate above 10 percent. 000 inhabitants. That number last Thursday was 11.7 per 100,000.

But the idea of ​​a renewed indoor masking mandate has drawn opposition, including from the Los Angeles County Business Federation and county supervisor Kathryn Barger, who said she believes in the effectiveness of masks, but not mask mandates.

Barger said Tuesday she doesn’t believe there is “empirical data” proving a mask mandate will be more effective than what the county is doing now, which strongly recommends masks.

“I’m adamantly opposed to mandating masking because I really believe it’s going to have the opposite effect,” Barger said.

Barger won support Tuesday from Supervisor Janice Hahn, who said she fears imposing a universal mandate “will be very divisive for LA County.”

“I honestly believe there is a significant portion of the population that is unwilling to accept mask mandates at this point,” Hahn said.

Ferrer said Tuesday that if the county approaches at least the 10 per 100,000 population level by Thursday, it would “trigger a reassessment on whether to reapply an indoor masking mandate.”

In Long Beach, hospitalizations are increasing but the city does not know the full extent due to a breakdown in communication between it and the State. Health department staff communicate regularly with Long Beach Memorial and St. Mary Medical Center, but do not work daily with Los Alamitos and Lakewood Regional Medical Centers, which are also considered Long Beach area hospitals.

The city’s coronavirus dashboard has not updated the hospitalization figure since late March.

Health officials did not immediately respond to a request for updated data on Memorial and St. Mary’s hospitalizations.

The city’s seven-day case rate has skyrocketed in recent weeks, reaching 478.8 on July 20. The seven-day case rate was initially the metric used to determine when to withdraw the mask mandate — a rate below 50 for two weeks — but the city withdrew the mandate before that threshold was reached.

The city has reported more than 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 each of the past three weeks, a dramatic increase from the week of April 11 when it reported just 70.

Throughout the pandemic, coronavirus-related deaths have consistently trailed weeks behind case increases and hospitalizations. Since July 11, the city has reported 15 coronavirus deaths, compared to 14 deaths in the previous eight weeks combined.

To date, Long Beach officials have reported 1,302 coronavirus-related deaths.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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