A new requirement that masks be worn indoors in Los Angeles County went into effect at midnight on Saturday, as officials try to blunt a sharp spike in new coronavirus cases.
The county’s daily average of new cases has more than doubled in each of the past two weeks, reaching almost 1,400 as of Saturday, and Covid hospitalizations are up by 27 percent, according to a New York Times database. Still, the numbers are far smaller than during the county’s winter peak, and daily deaths have remained in the single digits.
“When you look back at the last seven days obviously a whole lot has changed,” Hilda Solis, the chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, said on Sunday on the ABC program “This Week.” Ms. Solis called the past week’s increase in coronavirus cases — from an average of 761 to 1,389 — “very disturbing.”
“I am not pleased that we have to go back to using the mask in this matter, but it’s going to save lives,” she said.
Under the new mandate, both unvaccinated and vaccinated people will be required to wear masks. Including vaccinated people, Ms. Solis said, was “not punishment, it’s prevention.”
The mask requirement was reintroduced, according to the county health department, because the area’s surge of the highly infectious Delta variant presents risks that earlier versions of the virus did not.
“People with only one vaccine are not as well protected, and there is evidence that a very small number of fully vaccinated individuals can become infected and may be able to infect others,” said a statement the department issued on Thursday.
County public health officials had been urging residents for weeks to wear masks indoors as the Delta variant spread in the state, as it is doing across the country.
But with California fully reopened and pandemic restrictions lifted, it remains unclear how willing the public will be to pick up their masks again.
On Sunday morning in Beverly Hills, hospitality workers were faced with the challenge of reinforcing the masking mandate as people streamed into cafes, patisseries and brunch spots — some compliant, but others oblivious or even resistant.
“We’re prepared; we have extra masks,” said Emmi Perez, 19, a barista at Starbucks. But a lot of people, she added, had refused to put them on, claiming they were either vaccinated or simply did not want to wear one. “We did get in a couple of arguments already,” she said.
At Chaumont, a vegan bakery, a line of largely masked people snaked across the tiny storefront. One woman, Melissa Fry, who was unmasked and wearing a sundress, said she felt frustrated by the new rules. “I had Covid so I don’t feel that I need the vaccine,” she said, but she added she would not have been vaccinated regardless.
Her friend Sarah Robarts, who was wearing a mask, disagreed. “If it’s for the betterment of the whole, we’ve got to do it, and I’ll roll with it, as inconvenient as it is to me personally,” she said.
At the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown Hotel, the 70th-floor lobby had been jammed on Saturday evening with about 100 revelers, about half of them unmasked. By Sunday midmorning, about a dozen guests milled around the lobby, all masked save for one lone tourist at a window taking a selfie.
Near the check-in desk, the concierge was handing out face coverings to “comply with the mandate.” In the elevator, three unmasked men vacationing from Tunisia who said they had been vaccinated instantly produced blue surgical masks and slipped them on when informed the mandate had taken effect. “Better safe than sorry,” said a guest in a mask and workout gear who identified himself as a pilot for Korean Air.
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