LA County health agency issues new masking requirements

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Employers will have to provide staff with medical grade masks

As cases continue to surge as a result of the increased circulation of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the county Public Health Department on Wednesday, Jan. 5, modified its Health Officer Order to include additional safety measures to reduce transmission risks knowing that vaccinations alone are not sufficient to prevent spread of Omicron.

The updated Health Officer Order went into effect Thursday, Jan. 6.

As soon as possible, but no later than Jan. 17, employers are required to provide their employees who work indoors in close contact with others with well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks, or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks. These upgraded masks are better at blocking virus particles from going through the mask.

The new modifications include an alignment with the State Public Health Officer Order changing attendance thresholds at mega events; for outdoor mega events, the new attendance threshold has been lowered to 5,000 attendees, and for indoor mega events, the new threshold is 500 attendees. Operators of mega events, performance venues, movie theaters, and entertainment venues are responsible for the messaging, signage, and compliance of masking requirements unless spectators or customers are actively eating or drinking. Additionally, Public Health recommends that food and drink be consumed in designated dining areas.

Lastly, food and drinks are prohibited at card room gaming tables and masks must always be worn while indoors at card rooms, except for when actively eating or drinking in designated dining areas.

These modifications recognize the importance of wearing well-fitting, high-quality masks that do the best job filtering out virus when in close contact with others.

“I send my heartfelt condolences to everyone mourning the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, director of Public Health.

“Given the explosive spread of the virus, activities that put us in close contact with many other people now have an increased risk,” said Dr. Ferrer.

“As such, everyone needs to be sensible about how to protect themselves and those they love by layering on protections whenever around non-household members. At work, this means upgrading your mask if you work indoors and you are in contact with other workers or members of the public. At entertainment venues, this means limiting the time you spend without wearing your upgraded mask. And for other activities, this may mean postponing your participation until community transmission is much reduced,” said Dr. Ferrer.

As of Wednesday, Jan. 5, Public Health had identified a total 1,806,828 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County.

There were 2,240 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 10,159,295 individuals, with 16% of people testing positive.

Public Health is reminding residents to avoid visiting the emergency room unless they need emergency medical care. Residents should not be visiting the emergency department solely to get a COVID test or for minor complaints that could be resolved through their primary care physician.

sEmergency room visits should be reserved for those patients who are feeling severely ill – for example, those who are short of breath – or who have serious concerns about their health and who require immediate emergency care.

The county was offering home health tests, but the provider has reported they will not be accepting orders until Jan. 12.