One of the most influential Republicans in Los Angeles County is urging California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom to relax the state’s mask mandate immediately to match updated federal guidelines announced at a White House briefing earlier this week.
L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger made the request on Friday, issuing a statement and writing a letter to the governor calling on him to reconsider the state’s face covering requirements.
Barger is the only Republican on the powerful, five-member L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Each elected official represents approximately two million people residing in the nation’s most populous county.
“Los Angeles County has made tremendous progress vaccinating residents, including those in our hard-hit communities,” Barger said in a statement. “Furthermore, our positivity rate is less than 1% and our case rate remains low. While we still want to keep our communities safe, I am encouraged by the new guidance from the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and I believe that the state and Los Angeles County should immediately align with the new federal recommendations.”
Barger’s request came a day after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced the agency had amended its guidance for fully-vaccinated Americans.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic,” Walensky said on Thursday. “Anyone who is fully-vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.”
While the new CDC recommendations include exceptions for buses, planes, hospitals, detention centers, and homeless shelters, Walensky added, “We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
According to ABC News, “Currently, 22 state governments, as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, require people to wear face coverings in public settings.”
Governor Newsom, who is facing a recall threat mainly based on how he handled the pandemic, reportedly said on Friday that state officials were working on a new mask mandate, but must first sort through data. He has previously indicated “some mask guidelines and mandates” would “likely” remain in effect for indoor activities when the state is set to reopen its economy on June 15. Those comments, however, were made on Wednesday, the day before the CDC amended its guidelines.
In her letter to Newsom, Barger points out: “… the State of California now boasts the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation. Yet, the State still maintains some of the strictest COVID-19 restrictions in the Country.”
“Los Angeles County cannot change our existing mandates until the State loosens its regulations,” Barger continued.
L.A. County has made tremendous progress vaccinating residents, including those in hard-hit communities. Our positivity rate is less than 1% and our case rate remains low. I'm encouraged by new CDC guidance and believe we should align with Federal recommendations. pic.twitter.com/oHbDeiSXOT
— Supervisor Kathryn Barger (@kathrynbarger) May 14, 2021
The Los Angeles Daily News reports:
L.A. County requirements allow fully vaccinated residents to shed masks while indoors with other fully vaccinated people. But mask mandates remain in place for everyone working at or patronizing businesses — such as grocery stores, restaurants or retail shops.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the state and county were reviewing the new CDC guidance, but changes in local regulations were unlikely to occur for at least another week. She stressed that mask mandates remain in place largely to protect workers and customers at worksites, and state occupational health and safety regulators need to set policy for masking and social distancing in the workplace.
Ferrer said Cal-OSHA regulators are set to meet next Thursday to consider a set of recommended workplace requirements. And until that happens, people will still be required to wear masks in such indoor settings.
“I know people are going to be impatient now and they’re going to say, ‘No, time to get on this. Time to just eliminate all these requirements around masking,’” Ferrer said. “But that wasn’t the intent, I don’t think, of the CDC. I think CDC wrote in multiple places that people really do need to adhere to worker protections and state and local directives. It’s important for us to remember that we do need to protect workers, particularly those workers that are in essential work environments.”
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