LOS ANGELES — Public health officials will reinstate an indoor mask mandate for residents of the most populous county in the nation as coronavirus cases rise just one month after the state reopened its economy.
Fueled by the quickening spread of the delta variant, the mask ordinance will go into effect late Saturday and will apply to everyone regardless of vaccination status. Exceptions will apply, but those were not immediately clear Thursday. The Public Health Department said it will release full guidance no later than Friday.
“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,” county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said Thursday during a news briefing.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” he added.
Previously, officials recommended indoor mask-wearing among nonvaccinated people, who comprise roughly 4 million of the county's 10 million residents.
Public health officials reported 1,537 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the highest number since early March. On Thursday, Davis indicated more drastic measures might be taken if infection rates don't drop.
“Anything is on the table if things continue to get worse, which is why we want to take action now,” he said.
Two other California counties, Sacramento and Yolo, reintroduced indoor mask recommendations this week.
“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 in a statement. “Our best protection against COVID-19 continues to be the vaccine. We urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves, and their family and friends.”
State public health officials also reported an uptick in cases throughout California with 3,622 newly confirmed cases as of Thursday. The seven-day positivity rate is 3.5 percent, up from 2 percent last week.
Reaction to Los Angeles' mask order was swift, with opponents blaming Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, who is facing a recall election in September. He did not issue the county mandate.
"Here comes Gavin’s shutdown 2.0," tweeted Caitlyn Jenner, one of at least 100 candidates seeking to replace Newsom.
Across the country, young, unvaccinated people are showing up at hospitals with Covid-19 in disturbing numbers, health officials said. Vaccination rates among younger people are lower than among older Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency's data shows that slightly fewer than half of people in the U.S. ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 39 are fully vaccinated.
Officials have warned that the delta variant is more contagious and potentially deadlier. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said the variant is the "greatest threat" to eliminating the coronavirus.