The masking mandate was announced Thursday by county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis. It will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
"We're not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something would be too late given what we're seeing now,'' Davis said.
Davis said the rate of virus spread in the county has officially risen from moderate to substantial, with infections five times more likely to occur among unvaccinated residents. The county's seven-day average rate of daily new cases rose to 7.1 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 4.8 just last week.
Mask mandate: LA County orders face coverings indoors again as COVID cases spike
Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, says unvaccinated people now account for all COVID-19 hospitalizations at county-run hospitals.
"To date, we have not had a patient admitted to a DHS hospital who has been fully vaccinated with either the J&J, Pfizer or Moderna vaccine," Dr. Ghaly said Tuesday. "Every single patient that we've admitted for COVID has been not yet fully vaccinated."
State and county data shows the highly contagious Delta variant is quickly spreading among those who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine.
The rolling-average rate of people testing positive for the virus also continued to climb, reaching 3.75% on Thursday, up from 3.7% Wednesday and well above the 0.5% rate during this time last month.
LA County's COVID-19 test positivity rate increased by 700% in just one month - jumping from 0.5% to 3.7%. The vaccines can protect you from serious illness, hospitalization and death. Find a location near you at https://t.co/UVkFi7ugj8 pic.twitter.com/ycY9Ichr0K— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) July 16, 2021
Davis insisted again that COVID vaccines provide strong protection against the virus and the Delta variant, but unvaccinated residents are at significantly higher risk.
There are still nearly 4 million county residents who are unvaccinated.
Currently, 69% of county residents age 16 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 61% are fully vaccinated. Among those aged 65 and older, 88% have received at least one dose, and 78% are fully vaccinated.
Many people say they're confused about why things are changing. Across the board, the reaction is mixed.
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"If you're comfortable going out with a mask, do it. If you're afraid, stay home. A lot of people are different sides of the aisle on that, but why not just do what people are comfortable with," said Tujunga resident Karen Perdue. "I think this is the first step in lockdowns again."
"My reaction is simple, just wear it," said San Bernardino resident Francisco Felix. "Be safe about it, protect others as you go along."
In Los Angeles County, vaccination rates among Asians 76% have received at least one dose, 66% of whites, 55% of Latinos and 45% of Blacks.