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LA County will end mask order on public transit, in airports on Friday

Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County on Friday will end its local health order requiring masking while aboard public transit or inside transportation hubs, such as airports.

For months, L.A. has been the only California county to still mandate widespread masking in such settings — though some individual operators, most notably the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit commuter rail system, also have such rules in place.

L.A. County health officials had previously cited the heightened risks of coronavirus spread and exposure for transit workers as rationale for keeping the order in place. But with the numbers of reported coronavirus cases and hospitalizations having declined notably in recent weeks, health officials said the time has come to relax the order.

Even with the mandate set to expire, though, officials said they still strongly recommend masking in interior transit settings — and “strongly recommend, from our perspective, means it’s a great idea to keep your mask on,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.

BART’s board of directors will also discuss the future of that agency’s mask rules Thursday evening. The mandate there is currently in effect through Oct. 1.

The change coincides with the timing of the California Department of Public Health’s plan to lift state-ordered mandatory masking in jails and prisons, homeless shelters, and emergency and cooling centers in counties with a low COVID-19 community level, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Placement in that category — which includes most California counties — indicates the pandemic is not having a major impact on hospitals. The CDC updates its community level assessments, which indicates rates of new coronavirus-positive hospitalizations, every week, sorting counties into low, medium or high.

State masking orders would still apply in jails and prisons, shelters and cooling centers if there’s an outbreak, or if the facility is in a county with a medium or high COVID-19 community level.

Masks will still be required in healthcare facilities and long-term and senior care settings under a state health order. And the state is requiring that businesses and venues, including K-12 schools, “must allow any individual to wear a mask if they desire.”

L.A. County said that on Friday, it also will ease its strong recommendation for universal masking in indoor settings, and instead say the practice should be a matter of personal preference in light of declining coronavirus case rates. The state is doing the same in counties where hospitalization levels are low.

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