LA - but not other SoCal counties - asking health workers to wear masks again

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Thursday, January 11, 2024
LA County asking healthcare workers to wear masks again
With COVID and other illnesses on the rise this winter, LA County is asking workers and visitors in healthcare settings to wear masks again.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Urgent care and emergency rooms are filled this winter with people seeking relief from COVID, flu and RSV symptoms.

The rise in cases has prompted Los Angeles County to reinstate masking requirements for healthcare workers and visitors in healthcare settings.

But not every county is doing the same.

"At this point Riverside County has not issued a mandate for healthcare workers to be masked," said Barbara Cole, director of disease control with RUH Public Health in Riverside County.

Influenza-like illnesses are on the rise with "very high" activity levels in LA and Orange counties and "high" activity levels in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

"Elders, people with immunosuppression, diabetes - you want to protect yourself. One of the things you can do is elect to wear a mask when you are going into healthcare facilities," said Cole.

The rise in respiratory illnesses is not unexpected. The number of COVID hospitalizations remains in the medium-to-low range for Southern California according to the CDC.

Even so, hospital admissions remain below last year's peak.

"Right now we are holding many patients in our emergency department waiting for admission but we are still handling things OK," said Dr. Rodney Borger, chairman of emergency medicine at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.

Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties have not instituted masking requirements but also say they are following state guidance.

In LA County masks are back on with COVID-19 hospital admission levels in the county exceeding the CDC's medium level. Despite the increase LA County's health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer recently said there are fewer deaths from the respiratory illness than in the past.

"So, we average somewhere between three and five deaths a day. Even last winter we were averaging seven to ten deaths a day," Ferrer said.

Health experts recommend hand washing and staying home when sick in addition to vaccinations for flu, COVID and, for some groups, RSV.