Sheriff Villanueva won't enforce county's new mask order, claims 'not backed by science'

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles County's decision to reinstate the indoor mask mandate is getting mixed reactions, with some blasting it as unnecessary and others saying they are prepared to do what it takes to keep themselves and others safe.

County Sheriff Alex Villanueva was among those criticizing the county's decision to order masks to be worn indoors again, claiming the mandate is "not backed by science" and contradicts federal guidelines.

Villanueva was responding Friday to an order announced the day before by the county Department of Public Health. Starting Saturday at 11:59 p.m., all county residents are supposed to wear masks indoors under rules similar to those in effect prior to California reopening on June 15.
"Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines," Villanueva said.

He added that sheriff's deputies "will not expend our limited resources" to enforce the order and instead the department is asking for voluntary compliance.

RELATED: Los Angeles County reinstates indoor mask order

County officials reinstated the mask mandate after nearly a week of more than 1,000 new daily cases every day. The figure has grown more than ten-fold in just the month since California lifted mask and social distancing rules.

The day before California's reopening, June 14, the county reported 135 new cases, while on Friday the figure had spiked to 1,902 new cases. The rise is fueled in part by the more-contagious Delta variant, as well as continued resistance to vaccination. All of the COVID-19 patients in county-run hospitals are unvaccinated, officials say.

Hospitalizations have also increased, with 452 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals as of Friday - more than double the figure from a month ago.

"Because of this rapid rise, as well as the increasing presence of the more easily transmitted Delta variant of the virus, and the millions of people potentially at risk of infection, together we must reduce our risk of infection and our risk for potentially infecting others," the county health department said upon announcing the new mandate.

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger says she thinks the county should not make wearing masks a mandate.

"I don't think it should be mandatory," Barger said. "I think it should be recommended. Every other county in the state to my knowledge, we are the only county that's doing it mandatory."

Some Angelenos say they have no problem with the new rules.

"It is what it is," said Jordan Taylor of West Hollywood. "We did it before, we can do it again."

Others are resentful - not of the county but of those who have refused to get vaccinated and are contributing to the rising numbers.

"It feels like the the burden of the unvaccinated is being placed on the vaccinated," said Justin Sevakis of Glendale. "It's like there are people that don't have common sense and so therefore all of us have to pay for it - and it sucks. It feels like, you know, the teacher is punishing the whole class."

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