10/08/2022

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As Covid instances upward push, LA mulls returning to Covid face masks mandate

LOS ANGELES, California: County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Los Angeles, the most populous county in California with 10 million residents, could re-instate an indoor Covid mask mandate on July 29 if current trends in hospital admissions continue.

“For many, this will feel like a step backwards, but requiring masks again is part of a toolkit of sensible safety precautions during a jump in cases that is reminiscent of the Delta variant-fueled surge last summer,” Ferrer said.

The latest COVID-19 surge in the U.S. is driven by the highly transmissible BA.5 variant, which now accounts for 65 percent of cases, while its cousin, BA.4, is responsible for another 16 percent. Both variants have proven their ability to be resistant to the protection offered by Covid vaccines.

With the new omicron variants increasing hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks, American states and cities are re-assessing their responses, and the White House is alerting the public, though many experts say the warnings are arriving too late.

“It is well past the time when the warning could have been put out there,” Dr. Eric Topol, head of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, calling BA.5 “the worst variant yet.”

As Americans have removed their masks and resumed travel and social gatherings, they have also largely ignored warning to get booster shots.
Courts have also blocked federal mask and vaccine mandates, tying the hands of federal officials.

This week, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha urged the public to get booster shots and be more vigilant.

The White House has encouraged Americans to make use of free or inexpensive at-home rapid tests to detect the virus, as well as the free antiviral treatment Paxlovid, which protects against serious illness and death.

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A White House response team has urgently called upon all adults over the age of 50 to get a booster shot, and dissuaded people from waiting for the next generation of vaccines, expected in autumn.

The new mandate would expand the requirement to all indoor public spaces, including shared offices, manufacturing facilities, warehouses, retail stores, restaurants and bars, theaters and schools.

However, it is unclear how a new mandate would be enforced.