Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva says deputies will not enforce the health department’s modified order reinstating a mask mandate for indoor public settings that takes effect at 11:59 pm on Saturday, regardless of vaccination status.
On Friday afternoon, Villanueva released a statement indicating that the Sheriff’s Department would remain focused on other public safety matters.
“Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines,” said Villanueva. “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance.”
.@lapublichealth has authority to enforce a new mask order, but the underfunded/defunded will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance. Read my full statement by visiting https://t.co/DVBvmRbFA9 pic.twitter.com/Je1nMerWrO
— Alex Villanueva (@LACoSheriff) July 16, 2021
“We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.”
On Thursday, county health officer Dr. Muntu Davis announced the modification during a virtual briefing, citing an increase in COVID-19 transmission. He told reporters that reinstating the mandate was necessary because too many people in L.A. County have not received a vaccine to protect against coronavirus infection.
“There may be some people who are unvaccinated and don’t want to make that known that they’re unvaccinated,” Davis said, adding, “and that just puts others at risk.”
The Los Angeles Times reported:
The vaccines are believed to be essentially as effective against the Delta variant as other variants. And so those who got their shots don’t need a mask to protect themselves.
But officials suspect that unvaccinated people have also stopped wearing masks in indoor public settings and businesses, even though they’re still required to do so.
So vaccinated people are being asked to make a sacrifice to help slow coronavirus spread among the unvaccinated.
Wearing a mask indoors with others reduces the risk of both getting & transmitting the virus. 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. pic.twitter.com/xmr77qsmBv
— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) July 15, 2021
Davis said the order would remain “in place until we begin to see improvements,” and other more restrictive measures could be implemented if cases continue to rise.
The only Republican on the powerful, five-member L.A. County Board of Supervisors also spoke out against the modified order.
“While I am concerned by the rising COVID cases, I do not believe that the proposed mask mandate will help our efforts to stress the efficacy of the vaccines and compel unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger. “LA County should align with the State on all health officer orders. By deviating, we create confusion and disagreement at the local level, which hinders public trust and takes away from our primary messaging which should be to encourage individuals to get vaccinated with urgency given the spread of the Delta variant.”
Recent data from the L.A. Times shows 52.3% of county residents are fully vaccinated. The Times pointed out that L.A. County averaged 173 new coronavirus cases a day when California fully reopened on June 15. On Friday, officials recorded 1,902 infections, the eighth consecutive day the health department had reported more than 1,000. Over the past month, hospitalizations have increased from 216 to 452.
More than 10 million people reside in L.A. County. Since the pandemic began, county officials have identified 1,264,450 positive cases and 24,568 deaths.