Los Angeles County is waiving nearly all of its indoor mask and vaccine verification requirements, local officials said.
The change, effective Friday, removes mask requirements in public places like grocery stores, restaurants and bars. It also removes the need to present proof of vaccination or negative test results to enter indoor bars, wineries or most other businesses.
California state rules still require proof of vaccination or negative test results to participate in large indoor events, as well as masks in transit and in other high-risk settings, including hospitals.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s director of public health, cited new federal guidelines for measuring risk in communities in her office’s decision to remove restrictions sooner than expected. According to updated measures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said, Los Angeles County is in the low-risk category.
Still, Dr Ferrer said masks were strongly recommended and individual companies could choose to keep the requirements in place.
“Covid-19 is a deadly virus, and it’s still with us – it comes and goes,” she said. “We have to take advantage of the good times we are about to be in, where we see much less risk across the board for so many people, and be prepared, if we see a new variant.”
Although the City of Los Angeles will still, for now, require bars, restaurants and many other indoor businesses to check the status of vaccines, the timing is a major symbolic milestone for Angelenos who have weathered some of the surges the least the country’s deadliest and have lived under some of the country’s most enduring restrictions.
Dr. Ferrer was particularly cautious, even as his department faced frustration from residents who thought strict rules were unnecessary.
In recent weeks, however, Dr. Ferrer, along with other public health officials across the country, has shifted his focus to measures aimed at preventing surges, hospitalizations and deaths.
She said the county would continue to help residents get vaccinated and her department would continue to closely monitor case data to intervene before outbreaks in schools or businesses spin out of control. Dr. Ferrer stressed that the county will work to ensure that all communities have equitable access to therapeutics for people who fall ill with Covid-19.
On Monday, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington jointly announced that on March 12 they would lift statewide mask requirements in schools, which were among the last remaining restrictions on the statewide. And California officials on Tuesday lifted a mask mandate for unvaccinated people in indoor public spaces.