(Headline USA) Los Angeles County residents will again be required to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status, while the University of California system said that students, faculty and staff must be inoculated against the coronavirus to return to campuses.
Several studies show that masks have no positive effect on preventing the transmission of the virus.
The announcements Thursday came amid an alleged spike in COVID-19 cases, most of them the “highly transmissible” — but generally less threatening health-wise — delta variant that has proliferated since California fully reopened its economy on June 15 and did away with capacity limits and social distancing.
The original virus had a survival rate well upwards of 99 percent.
Nonetheless the rapid and sustained increase in cases in Los Angeles County requires restoring an indoor mask mandate, said Dr. Muntu Davis, public health officer for the county’s 10 million people. The public health order will go into effect just before midnight Saturday.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” Davis said during a virtual news conference.
He didn’t fully detail what would be some exceptions to the mask rule but said, for example, people could still take off their masks while eating and drinking at restaurants.
Davis said officials will focus on education rather than enforcement. Handing out citations to people who don’t comply is “not something we really want to have to do,” he said.
Los Angeles County has allegedly been recording more than 1,000 new cases each day for a week, and there is now “substantial community transmission,” Davis said. On Thursday, there were 1,537 new cases, and hospitalizations have now topped 400.
“The next level is high transmission, and that’s not a place where we want to be,” he said.
Hospitalizations in California are allegedly above 1,700, the highest level since April. More than 3,600 cases were reported Thursday, the most since late February, but a far cry from the winter peak that saw an average of more than 40,000 per day.
Other counties, including Sacramento and Yolo, are strongly urging people to wear masks indoors but not requiring it.
“The drastic increase in cases is concerning — as is the number of people choosing not to get vaccinated,” Sacramento County Public Health Officer Olivia Kasirye said.
The Los Angeles County decision came within hours of the University of California’s announcement that students, faculty and staff must be vaccinated for the upcoming semester.
UC President Michael V. Drake said in a letter to the system’s 10 chancellors that unvaccinated students without approved exemptions will be barred from in-person classes, events and campus facilities, including housing.
“Vaccination is by far the most effective way to prevent severe disease and death after exposure to the virus and to reduce spread of the disease to those who are not able, or not yet eligible, to receive the vaccine,” Drake wrote.
He said the decision came after consulting UC infectious disease experts and reviewing evidence from studies on the dangers of COVID-19 and emerging variants like the delta strain.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.