United States

'Not backed by science:' LA County sheriff will not enforce new mask mandate

3 minute read

A person wearing a protective face mask uses her mobile phone during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 31, 2021. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo

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July 17 (Reuters) - A new mask mandate in Los Angeles County, set to go into effect at a minute before midnight Saturday and designed to combat the spread of COVID-19, will not be enforced by the county's top lawman or his deputies.

The new mandate from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requires people to wear masks indoors, even if they are already vaccinated against the disease.

But Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the order is "not backed by science," and that it contradicts guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not prescribe masks indoors for most vaccinated people.

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The sheriff added that he "will not expend our limited resources" and that his office instead asks for "voluntary compliance" from the public.

The county, home to 10 million people and the nation's second-largest city, Los Angeles, is grappling with COVID-19, its Delta variant and case numbers rising to worrisome levels.

The DPH announcement comes after six straight days of more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in Los Angeles County. read more

"We’re requiring masking for everyone while indoors at public settings & businesses, regardless of vaccination status so that we can stop the increased level of transmission we're seeing," the DPH said on Twitter Thursday.

The county has become a place of "substantial" transmission, based on criteria set by the CDC, the Los Angeles County health officer, Dr. Muntu Davis, said in remarks provided to reporters.

It was unclear if other law enforcement agencies would also pass on enforcement.

The Los Angeles Police Department on Saturday did not immediately respond to inquires as to whether or not its officers would enforce the rule within city limits.

It was also unclear what the potential fines would be. Consequences were not outlined in two-page media release from the DPH.

In recent months, violations of local mask orders in California could cost anything from a first-time warning to fines between $100 and $500. In Los Angeles County last year, code enforcement officers could also shut down businesses for noncompliance.

Other California counties and other states are also grappling with a spike in coronavirus cases and are renewing mask recommendations

Sacramento, Yolo and Fresno Counties in California recently recommended that masks be worn indoors even by people who are vaccinated. Austin, Texas, on Thursday urged people who are not vaccinated or are otherwise high-risk to avoid travel, indoor gatherings, dining out and shopping, and to wear masks.

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Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Nick Zieminski

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