L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger urges Gov. Newsom to lift mask mandate for the vaccinated

Kathryn Ann Barger in her seat at an L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting
L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Ann Barger broke ranks with county public health officials this week and called on Gov. Gavin Newson to follow more relaxed guidelines set by federal officials regarding the wearing of masks.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

The announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting that vaccinated people can forgo masks outdoors and indoors caught many off-guard this week and created plenty of debate, particularly at the local level.

In a letter sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger spoke in support of dropping masks for vaccinated people, breaking ranks with county public health officials. She called on the governor to follow the eased guidelines set by federal officials.

“``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.”


This week’s guidance from the CDC was considered a milestone moment in the COVID-19 pandemic, but the final call on regulations and timelines for masks will largely be decided by state and local governments.

That will include setting more specific rules in places such as businesses, schools and other settings where it may be hard to determine who is or is not vaccinated.

Barger said L.A. County cannot ease its restrictions until the state does. She said the county is committed “to implementing safe, sensible directives that still protect our recovery and prevent regression to high positive case rates.”

Today, California maintains strict mask rules consistent with the CDC’s previous guidance, and officials said they will remain in effect at least while they study the new recommendations.

The state and L.A. County will review the CDC’s recommendations in order to “make sensible adjustments to the orders that are currently in place,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

It could be a week or more before substantive changes to mask-wearing orders take effect locally. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health board, which sets workplace safety standards, next meets on Thursday to discuss statewide guidance, and any county changes cannot be less restrictive than the state’s mandates.