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L.A. County relaxes outdoor mask rules for those vaccinated. But there are exceptions

People sit unmasked at an outdoor table in Redondo Beach.
Paulina Tulaphorn of Torrance, left, and friend Kayla Franco of Riverside at Hennessey’s Tavern on Tuesday in Redondo Beach.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County is relaxing its mask-wearing order to allow fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks outdoors in uncrowded situations, echoing new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Vaccinated people are safe to do outdoor activities like dining outdoors with friends from multiple households [and] attending small outdoor gatherings with fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people … without your mask on,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.

Fully vaccinated people also do not need to wear masks in uncrowded situations where they are walking past another person on the street, Ferrer said.

“If you’re fully vaccinated and you’re going for a walk … there’s no need for you to mask up if you quickly walk by other people,” Ferrer said.

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But even fully vaccinated people should still mask up in other crowded outdoor settings, like a crowded promenade, boardwalk, live performance, or parade, Ferrer said. The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has recommended fully vaccinated people continue wearing masks in crowded outdoor settings such as packed stadiums and concerts.

“If you’re walking down a crowded promenade; you’re on a boardwalk that’s super crowded; we do ask that you keep your mask on in those situations,” Ferrer said. “You’re not really going to be able to stay distanced from other people and may be around them for quite a bit of time, so there it would make sense to please keep your mask on.”

Ferrer said everyone will still be required to mask up in crowded outdoor settings as part of the revised L.A. County health officer order. The requirement is still important because more than 50% of people living in L.A. County are still not fully vaccinated, she said.

Previously, L.A. County required that everyone wear a mask when near people not living with them — whether inside or outside — including people walking past, unless everyone in the setting was fully vaccinated or there were only unvaccinated people from one household at an event.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people are still asked to wear masks when they are near other people who may be not fully vaccinated.

People are only considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving their second Pfizer or Moderna shot, or two weeks after receiving their Johnson & Johnson shot.

Only people 16 and older are eligible to be vaccinated in the U.S., and as a result, Ferrer said that even fully vaccinated adults who have unvaccinated children may want to wear masks to set a good example for their children.

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“Children do need to be masked” when around people who don’t live with them, Ferrer said, unless everyone else around them, in a small group setting, is known to be fully vaccinated.

“For those of you who are parents or grandparents or when you’re out with your children, you may want to continue to still model wearing masks and appropriate mask-wearing behavior. So you may want to keep your mask on, even if you are fully vaccinated, when you are with your children,” Ferrer said.

Underscoring the continued risk to children, officials in Hawaii this week confirmed the state’s first COVID-19 death in a child — a boy age 10 or younger who had underlying health conditions and was visiting Hawaii from another state with his parents.

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“He experienced COVID-19 symptoms shortly after arriving in the islands and was taken to a hospital where he died. Both parents were fully vaccinated before making the trip to Hawaii,” the Hawaii Department of Health said in a statement.

Ferrer urged that people get vaccinated as quickly as possible. It has never been easier to get a COVID-19 vaccine; supplies are now so ample that some vaccination sites have so many doses that they are requesting fewer doses next week.

“We’ve seen a significant drop here in L.A. County with people getting vaccinated and it’s very worrisome,” Ferrer said. “This would not be the time to lose momentum on vaccination.”

Many vaccination sites have had appointment slots that have gone unbooked this week. Booked vaccine appointments are down at least 50% at L.A. County-run vaccination sites, Ferrer said.

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“We take a lot of walk-ins, so that makes up for some of it, but we’re still going to be down for this week,” Ferrer said.

The people who are dying of COVID-19 in L.A. County have “all not been vaccinated,” Ferrer said. “We’re talking about 410 people in the hospital today. None of those people were vaccinated.”


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