Los Angeles is on the verge of reinstating mask mandates after the city hit a “high” level of COVID-19 risk
Mask orders are said to return The angel after the city officially crossed the “high” Covid risk threshold on Thursday night – with official guidance saying mask mandates will return if they stay above that threshold for at least 14 consecutive days.
According to the latest data from the city’s health department, the city is recording an average of 6,384 new cases each day, and its test positivity rate — which has become one of the most effective ways of assessing the current pandemic state — has risen to 15 percent.
It comes as the BA.5 variant, now dominant in the US, continues to spread and skyrocket case numbers across America.
Daily infections in America have risen 30 percent to 140,677 a day over the past week, while deaths have risen 25 percent to 536 a day over the past seven days.
Daily Covid cases in Los Angeles are beginning to creep up again, with America’s second-largest city not averaging 6,384 new cases every day
Los Angeles’ test positivity rate, a key metric used to determine the city’s risk of Covid, has risen to 15 percent in recent days, officials said
Variant BA.5 (dark green) now accounts for 65% of active cases in the US, overtaking strain BA 2.12.1 (red), which now accounts for just 17% of cases. Variant BA.4 (light green) is responsible for 16% of US Covid cases
Whether Los Angeles remains at “high” risk of Covid is unknown, but all three relevant numbers – cases, test positivity and hospitalizations – are all trending upwards.
America’s second largest city is currently seeing an average of 157 Covid-related hospitalizations per day, according to the latest official data.
“While we’re not seeing anywhere near the devastation we saw in last winter’s Omicron rise, we’re seeing much higher case numbers than at the peak of the delta rise. We’re unlikely to have reached the peak of that surge,” Barbara Ferrer, the city’s director of public health, said Thursday.
But she added that Covid killed more people in the city than any other infectious disease in the first six months of the year.
If officials implement plans to reinstate mask mandates, which would be reinstated as early as July 29, Los Angeles would be the only city in America to mandate masks in all indoor public spaces.
It may not be the last, however, as officials in New York City are also pushing to bring mask orders back amid rising cases in the Big Apple as well. However, Mayor Eric Adams has been reluctant to reinstate pandemic-related restrictions since taking office in January.
dr Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, also recommends returning masks given the widespread use of the BA.5 variant.
‘[BA.5 is] something we absolutely must take seriously. It has a transmission advantage over the predominant variant,” Fauci told MSNBC.
The variant is believed to be the most contagious form of Omicron to date. Early data from South Africa – where it was first discovered – also shows it may be able to evade natural Covid immunity caused by previous infection.
This is particularly dangerous as many people who think they are temporarily safe from Covid because of a previous infection are suddenly vulnerable again.
It arrived alongside the BA.4 variant — also spotted in South Africa earlier this year — which now accounts for 16 percent of cases, according to CDC data.
The BA 2.12.1 variant, which was dominant before BA.5, now accounts for just 17 percent of cases and is being wiped out by the two new strains.
The rampant spread of the two new strains, and the rise in cases that come with them, have led officials like Fauci to recommend that Americans bring back some Covid measures they may already have been familiar with from the past two years.
“Everyone wants to leave this pandemic behind and feel and hope it doesn’t exist. It does, the good news is we have the ability and the tools to address it and we need to leverage those tools,” said Fauci, who serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
“For example, get vaccinated if you are not primarily vaccinated. If you’re busy for a booster, get a booster.
“And if you are in an area with high infection dynamics – and have talked about mandating anything – but recommending people wear a mask when they are indoors. These are easily doable things that can save us from having even more problems than we have now.”
Booster shots will likely soon include reformulated shots aimed at targeting the Omicron variant, as vaccine manufacturers plan to launch new shots in the coming months.
The vaccines currently available were formulated to combat the original Wuhan strain of the virus that broke out globally in early 2020.
Since then, the virus has mutated extensively, and the Omicron variant family has the ability to evade the protection from infection afforded by these shots.
However, some experts disagree on the need for Omicron-tailored syringes, as the protection from serious infection, hospitalization and death afforded by the original syringes is still effective against the highly infectious strain.