The mask mandate for L.A. County public transit has been lifted as COVID-19 metrics continue to show a decline.
L.A. Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the change from “requiring” masks, to “strongly recommending” them, means they are no longer mandated at public indoor transit spaces such as buses, trains, indoor transit hubs and rideshares.
“… We’re shifting from requiring indoor masking on public transit and at indoor transit hubs, to ‘strongly recommending’ that everyone using public transit, including rideshares, wear well-fitting, high-filtration masks,” Ferrer said Thursday during a COVID-19 public update.
L.A. County continues to fall under the CDC’s “low” community transmission level and is averaging fewer than 100 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.
Ferrer said, however, that if those metrics creep back up to more than 100 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents for 14 consecutive days, the indoor transit mask mandate may return.
“When we’re in a low or medium community level, the indoor masking guidance on transit will depend on the amount of virus circulating in the community, as measured by the weekly case rate,” Ferrer said. “If the weekly case rate moves back above 100 for 14 consecutive days, universal indoor masking on public transit will be reinstated.”
The change in mask requirements comes despite Public Health’s admission that the risk of transmission is still the highest in these spaces.
Ferrer read a letter written by a rideshare driver who said he had contracted COVID-19 from a passenger, pleading that the mask mandates for rideshare continue. The man in the letter said, “Riders will not voluntarily keep masks on, once you say that they don’t have to wear them,” but the public health director’s concluding message for the cautionary tale was that masks are still “strongly recommended.”
“A recent study on the impact of the pandemic on public transit workers in California found that from the start of the pandemic through May of 2022, outbreaks were five times more frequent and mortality almost two times higher among workers in bus and urban transit industries when compared to all other industries,” Ferrer said.
Mask mandates will remain in place for healthcare and longterm care settings, and for patients who tested positive or were exposed to COVID-19.
Businesses may also set mask policies for their establishments.
In looking forward to the fall and winter holiday seasons, which have been the seasons in which COVID-19 surges occurred in the past two years, Ferrer said the newly rolled out bivalent booster shots were, “one of our best tools.”
While the new boosters are tailored to provide protection against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron, they are currently only available for adults, with the possibility of being available for younger children as soon as mid-October, according to Ferrer.
The boosters for children would first have to be authorized by the FDA and recommended by the CDC.
“We’re fortunate to have the new bivalent boosters for adults widely available already with the possibility of bivalent boosters for children very soon,” Ferrer said. “The bivalent boosters provide protection against the subvariants that are currently circulating at the highest levels.”
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