(CNSNews.com) - Starting on Saturday, July 17, everyone in Los Angeles County will be required to wear face masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, by order of the County Department of Public Health.
In a news release issued Thursday, the department said community transmission of COVID-19 "has rapidly increased from Moderate to Substantial, based on "the trend in daily new cases."
On June 15, the day the county fully opened, there were 210 new COVID cases (a positivity rate of 0.5 percent), but on Thursday, there were 1,537 new cases, the highest number since mid-March, reaching a positivity rate of 3.7 percent, the county said.
"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, together we must reduce our risk of infection and our risk for potentially infecting others," the news release said. An estimated 4 million L.A. County residents remain unvaccinated.
Dr. Muntu Davis, the Los Angeles County Health Officer, expressed condolences to people who have lost loved ones to COVID:
We expect to keep masking requirements in place until we begin to see improvements in our community transmission of COVID-19. But waiting for us to be at high community transmission level before making a change would be too late.
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.
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%, 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.
According to the health department, as of July 11, more than 10,712,037 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 5,946,447 were first doses and 4,763,590 were second doses.
Among L.A. County residents 16 and over, 69 percent have received one dose of vaccine and 61 percent have been fully vaccinated. Those percentages are well above the vaccination rate for the United States as a whole, where 56.0 percent have received at least one dose and 48.5 percent are fully vaccinated.
Among L.A. County seniors 65 and over -- the most at risk for serious illness or death from COVID -- 88 percent have received one dose of vaccine and 78 percent have been fully vaccinated.
According the L.A. health department, nine new deaths involving COVID were reported in Los Angeles County on July 14; since the pandemic began, 24,563 county residents have died of the disease.
As of July 14, 398 county residents were hospitalized for treatment of COVID (all unvaccinated), up from around 250 in June.