If you’ve been out and about since the June 15 reopening, you’ve probably been trying to feel out the new social norms of mask wearing. Fully vaccinated Angelenos don’t need to wear them at all in most settings, but you’ll still likely find plenty of presumably-vaccinated Angelenos masking up at the supermarket. It turns out that actually might be a smart move for the time being.
On June 28, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced that it strongly recommends that all Angelenos, regardless of whether or not they’ve been vaccinated, wear masks indoors in public due to the increased prevalence of the Delta variant. The highly transmissible Covid-19 variant accounted for nearly half of all sequenced variants for the week ending June 12; for cases the week ending June 26, that number rose to 54%. At the same time, overall cases have continued to tick up: On July 8, Public Health reported a 165% increase of new cases over last week, with 839 new cases in one day alone.
As a precautionary measure, Public Health now recommends (but to be clear, does not require) fully vaccinated people to wear a mask when visiting places like grocery stores, shops, theaters and workplaces where you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status. Unvaccinated Angelenos should technically already be wearing masks indoors anyway (but, you know, that’s basically just on the honor system).
The FDA-authorized vaccines have still been found to offer protection against the Delta variant, and of the small number of infections among those who’ve been fully vaccinated, symptoms have tended to be mild. But about a third of L.A. County residents 16 and older still haven’t been vaccinated, so the fast-moving variant still poses a threat as the county’s (admittedly still-low) number of cases per 100,000 people nears four for the first time in about a month. It’s also worth nothing that among the new cases, the Delta variant has been particularly prevalent in communities in the Antelope Valley, where vaccination rates are also lower than other parts of the county.
Public Health doesn’t have any sort of timeline attached to the masking recommendation, but in a statement says that Angelenos should mask indoors “until we better understand how and to who the Delta variant is spreading.” It’s not recommending the return of any sort of distancing or capacity limits for businesses.
This story was updated on July 8 with more recent statistics.