By MADISON HIRNEISEN
THE CENTER SQUARE STAFF REPORTER
(The Center Square) — Los Angeles County will ease indoor masking requirements for fully inoculated individuals in establishments that verify vaccination status starting today, a change in guidance that comes as officials report “reduced COVID-19 spread.”
County officials announced that starting today,, businesses, establishments or venues have two options: Allow masks to be optional for both customers and workers, or make masks optional only for customers.
Businesses and establishments that want to allow fully vaccinated customers and workers to unmask indoors must verify that everyone ages 5 and older show proof of vaccination status or a negative COVID-19 test. Customers and workers who are not fully vaccinated are required to show proof of a negative test and must continue wearing a mask indoors.
If businesses choose to make masking optional for just customers and not workers, employees would not be required to show proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test but would still need to mask up indoors.
Under existing L.A. County requirements, individuals 12 and older are required to show proof of full vaccination to enter indoor breweries, wineries, distilleries, nightclubs and lounges. At other indoor establishments, like restaurants and coffee shops, the county “strongly recommends” business owners check for proof of vaccination when people are indoors.
Additionally, the city of Los Angeles requires individuals to show proof of vaccination to enter indoor restaurants, gym and fitness venues and personal care establishments. Individuals can only show proof of a negative COVID-19 test with a valid medical or religious exemption or at a large outdoor event, according to the City of Los Angeles requirements.
The change in guidance comes as L.A. County sees a drop in COVID hospitalizations, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday. When the revised rules take effect today, it will be the first time since July that L.A. County has relaxed its universal indoor mask mandate.
“When transmission is very high, we need to create the most complete shield we can so that’s why it’s important that we layer in all the protections at hand,” the health director said in a statement Wednesday. “As transmission drops and there is less virus circulating, some tools may afford significant protections against the very worst risks associated with COVID.
“Because vaccines are one of these tools, with lower rates of hospital admissions and COVID hospitalizations, it is appropriate in settings verifying vaccination or negative test status, that we transition to strongly recommending masking instead of requiring masking.”
The announcement from Los Angeles County officials came about a week after the state lifted its indoor masking requirement. The majority of counties decided to align with the state, though a few counties, including Los Angeles, decided to retain their own indoor mask mandate until case rates improved.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn tweeted last week that she wanted the county to align with the state’s decision, saying officials were “beginning to lose trust of the people” after thousands of fans at the Super Bowl “flagrantly violated” the county’s mask mandate.
After the county’s decision to ease indoor masking restrictions for fully vaccinated people was announced Wednesday, Supervisor Hahn told Fox 11 (Los Angeles station KTTV-TV) that “the time is right.”
“I know people are frustrated, and they’re really ready to move on and get back with their lives, so for vaccinated people, this is great news,” Ms. Hahn said. “It’s something they’ve been waiting for, I think they want to be rewarded by being able to take their mask off indoors.”
Madison Hirneisen covers California for The Center Square.