LA County's outdoor mask mandate could be lifted as early as Wednesday as hospitalizations drop

The downward trend in cases and positivity rate continue, and for the first time in a while, hospital admissions fell below 2,500.
LOS ANGELES COUNTY (KABC) -- Masks are required at SoFi Stadium, but just days after the Super Bowl, Los Angeles County may be dropping its mask mandate for big outdoor public events.

Health officials believe it's still too early to take those masks off, even though the county dipped below an important threshold on Thursday.

In L.A. County, the downward trend in cases and positivity rate continue, and for the first time in a while, hospital admissions fell below 2,500.

"We'll consider L.A. County to be out of the surge when we have fewer than 2,500 hospitalizations for seven consecutive days," said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

She said when the county reaches this mark, health officials will consider lifting the mask mandate for outdoor mega-events and outdoors at schools and child care centers. That could happen as early as Wednesday.

"I want to emphasize that post-surge does not mean the pandemic is over or that transmission is low or that there will not be additional, unpredictable waves or surges in the future that will require integrated public health measures," she said.

Next week, California is poised to join other states such as New York, Illinois and Rhode Island in letting indoor masking mandates expire. But in L.A. County, officials say that won't happen until the county reaches a moderate level of transmission, which will likely happen at the end of March.

"Our case rate is dropping an average of 3.5% every day, and if we can maintain that pace, we'd reach moderate transmission in 25 to 30 days," she said.

As for masking requirements in schools, state health officials said they are working with education, public health, and community leaders to adapt to changing conditions.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stands by its guidance, saying most Americans should wear a mask in indoor public spaces and schools.

"At this time, we continue to recommend masking in areas of high and substantial transmission, and that's much of the country right now in public indoor settings," said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

The federal government also unveiled its plans to roll out the first shipments of COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 years old.

Those could go out as early as Feb. 21 if all goes as scheduled with the Food and Drug Administration granting emergency use authorization next week.

An FDA Advisory panel is set to review the safety data on Feb. 15.

While many are losing patience with mask mandates, Ferrer is reminding people that hospital admissions this week were higher than when Gov. Gavin Newsom reinstated the universal indoor mask mandate December.

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