Public health officials are reinstating the mask mandate at Los Angeles County health facilities

Los Angeles County has reinstated the mask-wearing requirement for staff and visitors at all licensed health care facilities in light of the uptick in coronavirus rates, officials said Saturday.

The county recently entered the “moderate” level of hospital admissions with COVID-19, as determined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Over the past week, Los Angeles County has experienced a notable but not unexpected increase in reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement. “While recent increases are significant, they remain well below last winter’s peak and common sense protection is strongly recommended to help limit transmission and severe disease early in the new year.”

The CDC threshold for the median is between 10 and 19.9 new hospital admissions with COVID per 100,000 population over seven days. The CDC reported 10.5 new COVID hospital admissions per 100,000 people in Los Angeles County for the week ending Dec. 23.

“Based on the Los Angeles County Health Officer’s order issued on December 27, 2023, when the rate of hospitalization for COVID-19 in Los Angeles County meets or exceeds the CDC average, all health care personnel, regardless of COVID -19 and influenza vaccination status, in licensed healthcare facilities that provide hospital care are required to wear masks while in contact with patients or working in patient service areas,” the department said in a statement.

“Furthermore, all persons attending a licensed healthcare facility that provides inpatient care are required to wear a mask when around patients and while in patient service areas.” This will remain in effect until the rate of hospitalizations with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County is below the CDC average for at least 14 consecutive days.”

There were 609 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals as of Dec. 23, according to state data. That’s up from 259 on Nov. 1, but fewer than this time last year, when the number was more than 1,200. Some of those patients were admitted for other reasons and discovered they had COVID after being tested in hospitals.

Since last week, the county’s reported daily average of COVID-19 cases has increased more than 25 percent, from 495 to 621, according to the health department. Officials said the number represents an undercount due to the large number of home-based COVID-19 test results that go unreported.

The department also reported an average of five COVID-related deaths per day, up from two earlier this month on Dec. 6.

Health officials said the majority of people who die of COVID-19 have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.

A week ago, the health department said it was possible that at least part of the local increase in transmission was due to new strains of COVID-19 gaining dominance in Los Angeles County, including JN.1, an emerging strain descended from BA.2.86, a lineage of Omicron.

However, JN.1 does not appear to lead to more severe cases of COVID-19, officials said.

To protect yourself from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses circulating this holiday season, health experts recommend the following common sense precautions:

  • Wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, especially before eating, after sneezing or coughing, or when in public.
  • Consider wearing a well-fitting, high-quality mask in crowded indoor spaces, tourist centers, or poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Stay home if you have any symptoms of illness, including a cough, sneeze, fever or sore throat, and consider talking to friends and family so they know they should be careful about gathering if they show signs of infection.

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