LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- With COVID-19 transmission falling, face masks will no longer be required on buses, trains and other mass transit vehicles in Los Angeles County starting Friday, nor will they be mandated at airports and other transportation hubs.
Los Angeles County was the only jurisdiction in the state still requiring the mass-transit masks. Beginning Friday, face coverings will only be "strongly recommended" on transit vehicles and hubs.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said transit masks will remain only "strongly recommended" as long as the county stays in the federal government's "low" COVID activity level and the weekly infection rate remains below 100 new cases per 100,000 residents.
If the rate rises above 100 new infections per 100,000 residents, the masks will again be mandated on transit vehicles. The county's rate as of Thursday was 98 cases per 100,000 residents.
The change to the transit masking rule will coincide with Friday's overall easing of mask rules in the state and county. The easing means that masks will no longer be required in correctional facilities, homeless shelters or cooling centers.
Los Angeles County will also lower its general indoor masking guidance from "strongly recommended" to "individual preference."
Masks, however, will continue to be required in health care, long-term care and adult/senior care facilities. Individual businesses and venues will also be permitted to require masks indoors if they choose to do so. People considered at higher risk of infection or severe illness should also consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor public places, officials said.
People who begin exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus are also required to wear a mask for 10 days, under county guidelines. People who were positive for the virus but are eligible to leave isolation after six days following a negative test must also wear a mask if they are returning to work or school.
The county has been experiencing downward trends in COVID infections and hospitalizations for weeks.
On Thursday, the number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals fell to 551, down from 573 on Wednesday, according to state figures. Of those patients, 77 were being treated in intensive care units, down from 83 on Wednesday.
County officials have said about 43% of patients with COVID were actually hospitalized due to virus-related illness, while the rest were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested upon admission.
The county Department of Public Health reported another 1,666 COVID infections on Thursday, lifting the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,444,630. The case numbers officially reported by the county are also believed to be low due to the popularity of at-home tests, the results of which are generally not relayed to the county.
Another 12 COVID-related deaths were also reported Wednesday, giving the county an overall death toll of 33,519.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 4.7% as of Thursday.
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