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Los Angeles County brings back mask mandate, regardless of vaccine status, after rise in Covid-19 cases

Just one month after California’s reopening, the county Public Health Department said on Thursday that masks will again be required indoors, effective on Saturday. New Covid-19 cases in the most populous US county last week rose above 1,000 daily for the first time since March and topped 1,500 on Thursday.

“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late, given what we’re seeing now,” Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, told reporters. County officials have warned since late June that the presence of the Delta variant of Covid-19 has put residents at increased risk of infection.

The new mask mandate will remain in effect until infection rates drop back down, Davis said, and more restrictions may be ordered if necessary. “Anything is on the table if things continue to get worse, which is why we want to take action now,” he said.

It’s not clear how effective a mask mandate will be in blunting the spread of the virus. California, which has had some of the nation’s strictest social-distancing restrictions, ranks No. 31 among US states in terms of Covid-19 death rate since the pandemic began, at 162 per 100,000 residents. At the other end of the spectrum, Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis has prohibited enforcement of local mask mandates, ranks No. 26, at 178 deaths per 100,000. Idaho, which hasn’t had a statewide mask mandate, ranks No. 40, with 121 per 100,000.

More than 20 million Californians, or 51% of the state’s population, has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. That rate exceeds the national average of 48%. Los Angeles County is at a jab rate of 52%, according to the Los Angeles Times — even though about 18% of its population is under 15 years old, and children under 12 not eligible for vaccination — but new infections have jumped 500% in the past month. About 70% or residents 16 and older have received at least one vaccine dose.

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