LA County employers required to provide medical grade masks in workplace under revised health orders

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Vaccinations alone are not sufficient in the midst of the highly transmissible omicron variant. In four days, a new masking requirement goes into effect for all Los Angeles County indoor employees.

L.A. County employers have until Monday to provide medical-grade surgical masks, N95, or KN95 masks to indoor workers in close contact with others.

"They're designed to filter out 95 percent of the particles in the air. So they are higher levels of protection more than a surgical mask or procedural mask and more than a cloth mask," said County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis.

Davis says that what's most important is the mask seals around the nose and mouth to reduce the risk of particles getting in or out.

"If you have just a surgical mask or procedural mask, then a cloth over the top of that mask will improve the fit," he said.

These new mask recommendations come as L.A. County sees a rise in breakthrough infections.

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As of Jan. 11, 2022, among the nearly 6.5 million 12 and older L.A. County residents vaccinated, the number of infections is about 321,000, approximately 4,800 hospitalized, and 666 deaths.
The advantage of medical-grade masks over cloth is that they don't absorb respiratory droplets.

"A good procedural mask or surgical mask, if you put a drop of water on the outside it will form a bead and it won't absorb into the mask," Davis said.

Regardless of vaccination status, officials say wear masks in public places such as planes, trains, rideshares, and crowded outdoor spaces like mega-events and private gatherings with people outside your household.

"It's really important that each of us understand that our individual activities and what we do and what we don't, really does not just impact those around us, but it impacts the rest of our communities," Davis said.

A consistent mask practice can help keep the economy open.

"We will get through this like we have in the past, but it's going to take each and every one of us to do our part," added Davis.

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