If the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline, Los Angeles County will consider dropping its recommendation to wear a mask indoors, as well as its requirement for masking on buses, trains and transit depots, the county’s Department of Public Health reported on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

That’s a very strong possibility in the near future given that the seven-day average for cases dropped by 21% this week compared to last week.

Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Public Health Department, told the county Board of Supervisors that the number of COVID cases fell to 127 per week per 100,000 people, as of Sept. 12.

FILE - Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer held an online media briefing on COVID-19 on Thursday, July 28, 2022. She is consulting with the CDC to determine if LA County should drop its mandatory indoor mask requirement. (Video copy)
FILE – Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer held an online media briefing on COVID-19 on Thursday, July 28, 2022. She is consulting with the CDC to determine if LA County should drop its indoor mask recommendation. (Video copy)

If that figure falls below 100 cases per week, Ferrer told the board, the wording in which the county strongly urges people to wear masks in indoor spaces would be rescinded.

“If we go below 100 cases, ‘masking indoors’ would be moved to masking by individual preference,” she said. The masking requirement would remain for hospitals, doctor’s offices, congregate care facilities and shelters, she said. Also a 10-day requirement for masking indoors would remain in place for workers with a known exposure to COVID-19.

The highly cautious Ferrer was optimistic that the county’s low transmission rate for the virus will continue, possibly triggering a loosening of the department’s indoor mask recommendation, and possibly removing the requirement on transit.

The county’s low transmission rate, as categorized by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, has resulted in a large drop in the number of people getting tested at county test sites, reported Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of health services for Los Angeles County.

“There are fewer people with COVID or with symptoms, so there’s less demand for testing,” Ghaly said. “The emergency conditions that necessitated the county to build out a robust testing program are no longer prominent at this point.”

L.A. County reported 1,601 new COVID cases on Tuesday, down from 2,348 on Sept. 10 and 2,228 on Sept. 9. Hospitalizations are down to 115 a day, a 9% decline, Ferrer reported. The county reported 13 new deaths.

“We are relieved to be in this place, where there is less transmission,” Ferrer said.

A new, “bivalent” COVID-19 booster shot that protects against the more infectious Omicron variant and its BA.4, BA.5 and BA.4.6 subvariants — the dominant strains of transmission in L.A. County — was offered to the public starting last week, available from the county Department of Public Health, private healthcare providers and pharmacies.

The county estimated that close to 7 million residents 12 years or over are eligible for the new bivalent booster. The booster is only for those who’ve received their primary series of vaccines. For those who’ve also received the additional monovalent booster, they can get the new booster two months after the last booster.

The newly approved Pfizer/BioNTech booster is for those age 12 and over, while the Moderna bivalent booster is for those age 18 and older.

If enough people get the new booster, Ferrer said, they could prevent a winter surge. “This (booster) is targeting what is circulating,” she said. “It would avoid having another disaster, disruptive, devastating winter.”

To find vaccination sites or get more information, call 1-833-540-0473 or visit vaccinatelacounty.com

The department also had good news regarding monkeypox. Since late May, 1,772 cases have been reported in the county, plus 95 in Long Beach and 22 in Pasadena, reported Dr. Rita Singhal, county chief medical officer.

Monkeypox cases are leveling out, Singhal said. On Aug. 20, the county reported 255 cases. On Sept. 3, the number of cases had  dropped to 150, and are expected to drop further as more people get vaccinated, she said.

The sub-region with the highest concentration of monkeypox cases is Metro Los Angeles, followed by the San Fernando Valley.

For information on the monkeypox disease and vaccine sites, go to: ph.lacounty.gov/Monkeypox or call the DPH at: 1-833-540-0473.

City News Service contributed to this article.

California

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