President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator, Dr. Ashish Jha, has expressed support for reinstating a mask mandate in Los Angeles County amid rising COVID-19 cases.
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Jha pointed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation to wear face coverings in crowded places, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk.
Jha’s comments come as Los Angeles County appears likely to bring back its indoor mask mandate on July 29 if the county remains within the CDC’s designated “high level” of COVID-19 transmission.
“My perspective on this has been very clear that local jurisdictions, cities, counties, states should make decisions about mask mandates because communities are different and their modes of transmission are different. “, Jha said in the interview.
“That said, the CDC also has very clear guidance on this through their COVID Community Levels. And the recommendation from the CDC is that when you’re in a high area, this kind of orange area like LA County, you know, people wearing masks indoors are really important, and that will really make a difference.
“A step back”
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said July 14 that her county is now experiencing a “high” level of virus transmission and suggested the indoor mask mandate would be reimposed if cases in the county remained at this level for two consecutive years. weeks.
“For many, this will feel like a step backwards. But we are not closing anything,” Ferrer said. “We are not asking people not to reunite with the people they love. We are asking that you take reasonable action, when there is so much transmission with a highly transmissible variant, to move forward. and don a properly fitted high-filtration mask when indoors with others.
LA County reported 8,954 new cases of COVID-19 on July 15 and 16 more virus-related deaths. According to official data, there were 1,223 hospitalizations positive for COVID-19, compared to 1,202 the day before.
However, at a press conference on July 13, Dr. Brad Spellberg, chief medical officer for Los Angeles County and the University of Southern California Medical Center, and epidemiologist Paul Holtom said he had been no change in levels of COVID-19 transmission. .
” It’s the same. He did not changed. It’s the same. It’s like… two months of the same thing,” Spellberg said.
“The numbers at [the hospital system’s] Positive COVID tests have continued to rise, but it’s not because we’re seeing a ton of people with symptomatic illness being admitted…we’re seeing a lot of people with mild illness in the care of urgency and [emergency department] who go home and are not admitted,” he said.
If a mask mandate is reimposed in Los Angeles, it would require citizens to wear face coverings in places like offices, restaurants, bars and gyms.
Nearly 9 in 10 Californians live in counties with “high” levels of COVID-19, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.
Increase in cases
Omicron’s BA.5 subvariant is fueling the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, with the World Health Organization reporting that it was responsible for 52% of sequenced cases at the end of June, up from 37% in one week.
In the United States, it is estimated to cause about 65% of infections.
Jha said on Sunday that it’s “really important to remind people of the science, the science of public health, and the science of public health is very clear. If you’re in a crowded indoor space, especially if it’s poorly ventilated, wearing a mask lowers your risk of infection and lowers your risk of passing it on to others. So we have to keep encouraging people to do that.
Jack Phillips and Reuters contributed to this report.