The order will also again require masks at all indoor public transport hubs, including airports and bus terminals.
Director of Public Health Barbara Ferrer said Thursday that the order is based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s view that wearing masks during transit remains an important step in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“They are experts,” Ferrer told reporters during an online briefing. “They made a decision that it is currently necessary for public health to have this requirement in place, and that resonates with us.”
At the urging of the CDC, the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday appealed a ruling earlier this week by a federal judge in Florida that overturned the U.S. government’s rule requiring masks to be worn in public transportation, particularly on board aircraft. .
U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle ruled that the CDC had exceeded its authority by issuing the mandate to wear a mask on transportation systems. But on Wednesday, the CDC issued a statement saying it continues to believe that requiring masks in indoor transportation environments “remains necessary for public health.”
“The CDC will continue to monitor public health conditions to determine if such an order remains necessary,” according to a statement from the agency. “The CDC believes that this is a lawful order, within the CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”
In response to Mizelle’s decision Monday, Los Angeles County public transportation agencies announced that masks would be optional, including aboard Metrolink commuter trains and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority buses and railroads. Los Angeles International Airport and Hollywood Burbank Airport also announced that masks were optional.
Ferrer said the county’s renewed order, which takes effect at 12:01 p.m. Friday, will reinstate mask orders in all of these settings. The rule will not apply to persons on board aircraft which are outside the county’s jurisdiction.
She said she feels “really, really upset” that the new county ordinance is likely to create confusion among residents who feel a sense of “whiplash” due to rapidly changing rules. However, she noted that the CDC never changed its recommendations regarding the wearing of masks on public transportation, saying that the Florida Court’s decision was made by “a federal judge with little experience in public health” who questioned the CDC’s authority.
Ferrer said public transportation can often be crowded, bringing people in cramped environments with sometimes little ventilation, conditions that can spur the spread of the virus.
She stressed that the county still sees “a lot of transmission” of COVID-19, and the infectious BA.2 subvariant of the virus continues to spread – now representing 84% of all local cases undergoing special tests to identify variants. A few offshoots “sublineages” of BA.2 have now also been identified, one of which has already been linked to “significant proliferation” of cases in parts of New York.
While BA.2 is blamed for rising case numbers, these cases have still not led to an increase in hospitalizations due to the virus. In fact, hospitalizations continue to be on a downward trend. But Ferrer said it does not reduce the risk of new and potentially more dangerous variants of the virus developing the more it circulates.
The virus “is still equated with significant disease for some people,” she said. “It can still cause, even for people who experience mild illness when first infected, it can still cause for a good percentage of people ‘long COVID’.”
Throughout the pandemic, Los Angeles County has often imposed stricter COVID mandates than those required by the state and federal government. It was one of the first jurisdictions to impose widespread indoor masking mandates, and it maintained mask requirements for large outdoor events, although similar restrictions were relaxed elsewhere.
The county on Thursday reported a further 2,123 infections. Ferrer said the county’s seven-day average daily number of new cases is now 1,261, up from 1,017 the previous week. The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was around 2%, one of its highest levels since the end of February.
A further 13 COVID-related deaths were reported on Thursday.
According to government figures, there were 224 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Thursday, down from 230 on Wednesday. Of these patients, 22 were treated in intensive care, down from 28 a day earlier.
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Copyright © 2022 by City News Service, Inc. All rights reserved.