Health officials in Los Angeles county now strongly recommend that people wear masks indoors in public places, regardless of their vaccination status, to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Monday’s recommendation by the LA county health department comes as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that Delta variants are now responsible for about one in every five new infections across the US.
LA county health officials noted that “fully vaccinated people appear to be well protected from infections with Delta variants”. But the department suggests that people wear masks when inside grocery or retail stores, as well as theaters and family entertainment centers and workplaces when people’s vaccination statuses are not known.
“Until we better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection with minimum interruption to routine as all businesses operate without other restrictions, like physical distancing and capacity limits,” the department said in a news release.
The Delta variant was first detected in India and is now circulating widely in many countries. Cases of Covid-19 and the more contagious Delta variant are rising in some parts of the US, particularly where vaccination rates are low. The variant could quickly become the dominant version of the virus in the US, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has warned.
With more than 10 million residents, Los Angeles county is the most populous county in the United States. Nearly 68% of county residents over the age of 16 have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, according to county data, and 59% have been fully vaccinated.
The county experienced a massive wave in Covid-19 cases and deaths over the winter. To date, the county has recorded more than 1.2 million cases and more than 24,000 deaths.
The recommendation comes as recent data has shown that the pandemic in LA county continues to have an unequal impact on certain communities of color, with Black residents contracting Covid and requiring hospitalization at more than twice the rate of white residents