Orange County enters 'high' COVID transmission level, but no indoor mask mandate expected

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Saturday, July 16, 2022
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As Orange County moves to "high" COVID-19 community transmission, the county's deputy health officer says the region isn't moving toward reinstating an indoor mask mandate.

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County health experts are once again keeping a close eye on COVID-19 cases as the county moves to "high" community transmission.

"Right now we're certainly seeing a surge in cases," said Dr. Matt Zahn, deputy health officer for the Orange County Healthcare Agency.

He said transmission in the community is up due to the highly transmissible omicron subvariants.

"We have such an overlap in terms of our populations from Los Angeles County and us and other surrounding counties," Zahn said. "It's fair to say we're all seeing this increase in cases. We're all in this together."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's COVID-19 data tracker, Los Angeles County's COVID-19 community level is now in the "high" category.

Ventura and Orange counties also moved into the "high" level this week based on elevated rates of people being infected with the virus.

San Bernardino and Riverside counties are currently in the "medium" category.

"Whenever we've seen an increase like this in the past during the pandemic there usually was an increase in ICU cases and also deaths. We're not seeing that," said Jose Arballo, public information officer for the Riverside County Department of Health.

If L.A. County stays at the "high" category for two weeks straight, officials say it would trigger a new indoor mask mandate.

It's a move residents in some neighboring counties should not expect to see.

"We've always followed the state guidelines and mandates," Arballo said. "I believe we will continue to do so. That's the instruction we've been given."

"In Orange County, we are not moving toward mandates at this point," Zahn said.

Right now, health officials said anyone who feels safer wearing a mask should continue to do so especially in public places and indoors, and they encourage folks to get the COVID-19 vaccine or booster if eligible.