City Council to explore phasing out COVID-19 policies

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles City Council approved a motion March 8 to explore phasing out temporary COVID-19 programs and policies and get recommendations on which ones should be adopted permanently.

The motion, introduced by Councilman Joe Buscaino, passed on an 11-0 vote. It instructs the city administrative officer to work with the chief legislative analyst and city attorney to provide recommendations to phase out temporary COVID-19 policies and programs and address the needs of Angelenos with long-term solutions.

The departments also will report on the impacts of policies that were in effect during the COVID-19 State of Emergency, which is ongoing, and which policies should be considered for permanent adoption.

The motion comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in the county continues to decline after this winter’s Omicron surge.

Los Angeles County already repealed its own mandate requiring people entering breweries, bars and other indoor spaces to show proof of vaccination, and the city and county both ended their mask mandates for most indoor spaces March 4.

However, Los Angeles County’s health director continues to urge residents to wear masks, even though they are no longer required in most indoor settings, saying they still offer strong protection against COVID-19 transmission.

“Although masking is not required, both the state and our Public Health Department are strongly recommending masking, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public spaces,” Barbara Ferrer said in a statement March 7.

“And those who are at elevated risk, or who live with someone who is at elevated risk, should wear a well-fitting respirator, as they provide the best protection against COVID-19.

“COVID-related illness can be quite dangerous for many, since even those initially experiencing relatively mild illness can go on to develop long COVID. Taking sensible precautions remains the best way to keep everyone as safe as possible.”

Masking is still required in higher-risk settings, including health care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.

Indoor masks also continue to be required on school campuses, although the county and state are expected to lift that requirement March 12. The policy, however, is expected to remain in place in the Los Angeles Unified School District until the end of the school year.

Despite the easing of the requirement, county officials noted that individual businesses can still opt to require face coverings. People are also free to wear masks whenever they see fit, particularly in crowded settings or while interacting with people at higher risk of severe illness from the virus.

The county reported 43 new COVID-19-related deaths March 7, bringing the overall death toll from the virus to 31,046. Another 1,675 new cases were reported.

The new cases gave the county a cumulative total from throughout the pandemic of 2,805,119. The average rate of people testing positive for the virus was 1%.

According to state figures, there were 731 COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles hospitals. Of those patients, 130 were being treated in intensive care.

People attending indoor mega-events of 1,000 or more people — such as sporting events — in the county are still required to show proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test to be admitted. Vaccine verification or a negative test is also still be required for workers at health care facilities and congregate-care facilities.

A city of Los Angeles ordinance that took effect Nov. 8 remains in effect. That ordinance requires people over age 12 to show proof of vaccination before patronizing indoor restaurants, gyms, entertainment and recreational facilities, personal care establishments, some city buildings and mega-events with 5,000 or more attendees within the city of Los Angeles.

People can be exempt from that mandate for medical reasons or if they have a “sincerely held religious belief,” and each business is responsible for reviewing exemptions.

 

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