Los Angeles County will drop its indoor mask mandate on Friday for indoor venues where patrons are required to show proof of vaccination to enter, including theaters and restaurants.
The county Department of Public Health issued the order on Wednesday. It applies only to venues and businesses that are checking vaccine passports or proof of a recent negative COVID test — but not to businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies where such restrictions are not in place.
Under the new rule, patrons who show proof of vaccination will be able to take their masks off indoors. Those who instead opt to show a negative test will have to keep their masks on. Employers also have the option to allow their employees to remove their masks, if the employees are vaccinated.
The state of California dropped its indoor mask mandate last Wednesday, but some counties have kept their mandates in place due to local transmission rates. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, has previously said she anticipated lifting the mask mandate across the board sometime in late March.
But the department has come under increasing political pressure to align with the state’s guidelines. Kathryn Barger and Janice Hahn, two of the five members of the county Board of Supervisors, publicly argued last week that it was time to lift the mandate.
“I believe we are beginning to lose the trust of the people,” Hahn said on Twitter. “We already saw thousands of people flagrantly violate L.A. County’s mask mandate at the Super Bowl.”
Barger also called for more urgency on the issue, saying “Ending indoor masking mandates may be around the corner but isn’t happening fast enough.”
Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors last week that she would consider lifting the mandate “at some sites where there are additional layers of protection, including sites that are verifying vaccination for all of the folks that are entering those particular places.” She said she was hoping to do that “relatively soon.”
On Tuesday, Hahn announced that Ferrer would issue the updated health order shortly.
“LA County DPH is issuing a new Health Order (looks like it will take effect Friday) allowing vaccinated people to take off their masks indoors at places that check for proof of vaccination,” she wrote on Twitter. “This puts us significantly closer to aligning with the State.”
Hahn’s spokesperson said that Ferrer had announced the policy earlier in the day during a call with indoor venue operators. The new order was issued on Wednesday and takes effect on Friday.
Updated on Wednesday with details from the order.