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L.A. County Public Health officials say wearing masks in businesses "can help to slow the spread (of COVID-19) and does not limit business occupancy and operations." Scott Steepleton/Surfside News
Scott Steepleton, Editor
3:03 pm PDT July 15, 2021

Don’t throw away your mask just yet Malibu.

With cases of COVID-19 up sevenfold since the state “reopened” one month ago, Los Angeles County Public Health officials on Thursday said masks will again be required of everyone in indoor public spaces starting this weekend.

Vaccination status does not matter.

“We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County,” Dr. Muntu Davis, the county’s health officer, told reporters.

The new order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday and means all customers entering any indoor public establishment — retail shops, grocery stores, restaurants and workplaces — will again be required to mask up. Indoor dining will be allowed, but customers will have to keep the mask on when not actively eating or drinking.

“We expect to keep masking requirements in place until we begin to see improvements in our community transmission of COVID-19," Muntu said. "But waiting for us to be at high community transmission level before making a change would be too late."

On June 15, the county saw 210 new cases. On Thursday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed the highest number of new COVID-19 cases since mid-March with 1,537 new cases. Today’s test positivity rate is 3.7 percent; on June 15, it was around 0.5 percent.

Because of this rapid rise, as well as the increasing presence of the more easily transmitted Delta variant of the virus, and the millions of people potentially at risk of infection, residents must reduce the risk of infection and the risk for potentially infecting others, according to a statement from the Public Health.

Malibu has seen 467 cases and eight deaths since early last year.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles County confirmed 1,315 new cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the sixth consecutive day where more than 1,000 new cases have been reported. More than 1.2 million cases have been reported in the county. There have been 24,566 deaths.

"Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so that we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing," said Davis. "We continue to urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated in order to protect themselves and their family and friends. Becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19 remains the best protective action that people can take if they are eligible for it. Although not at 100 percent, it significantly reduces the risk of infection and, for the small number of people that get infected, it reduces the risk of hospitalization and death once you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

The same day L.A. County announced reinstatement of its masking protocol, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told “CBS This Morning” that the vaccines readily available to all who want them are working as intended.

"They are safe, they are effective and we're fortunate they're working now against the variants that we have circulating here in the United States, including the Delta variant,” she said.

Walensky added that data shows cases are on the rise in families that aren’t vaccinated — an especially troubling thing in areas where vaccination rates are low.

“This can take off, as we’re seeing, across these communities,” Walensky said.

County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, whose district includes Malibu, called the mask reinstatement reasonable, "given that virtually everyone agrees requiring proof of vaccination status before entering buildings is unrealistic. This keeps businesses open but makes it less likely unvaccinated people will just skip masks and put us all at risk."

"Until we can lower community transmission again and get more Angelenos vaccinated," Kuehl added, "we all need to pitch in and keep from providing breeding grounds for even more variants."

"This is an unfortunate measure, especially since we have the best answer to finally stamping out this pandemic once and for all: get vaccinated."