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What will a reopened L.A. County look like? More freedom but also coronavirus tests and rules

The San Pedro Senior High cheerleading squad shakes pompoms on campus
The San Pedro Senior High cheerleading squad was present for the opening day of the vaccination clinic May 24.
(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County is eagerly awaiting a full reopening June 15. But despite the excitement, it won’t be a complete return to a pre-pandemic normal.

Here are five things to expect as L.A. County fully reopens.

There may be a higher risk for outbreaks for unvaccinated people

California officials have signaled they’ll end mask-wearing requirements for fully vaccinated people June 15. But there’s also an expectation that unvaccinated people may violate rules that generally instruct them to continue wearing masks.

If they start shedding their masks in close contact with other unvaccinated people, and vaccination rates are not high enough to interrupt outbreaks from occurring, it’s possible more unvaccinated people will be at higher risk for contracting COVID-19.

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Getting a coronavirus test will become even more important for the unvaccinated

“As we begin intermingling more with people outside our households, testing is really one of the best ways to stop outbreaks before they start,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “This will be an essential part of our strategy, especially after June 15.”

Ferrer recommends getting tested in the following situations:

• When anyone comes down with signs or symptoms of COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status. (It’s extraordinarily rare for a fully vaccinated person to come down with symptoms of COVID-19 — only 0.03% of 3.3 million L.A. County residents who had been fully vaccinated as of May 7 later tested positive for the coronavirus. Only 0.002% were hospitalized.)
• Unvaccinated people who discover they’ve been in close contact with someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19.
• Unvaccinated people who have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus.

“So if you are unvaccinated and you spent time indoors around a lot of people not wearing masks, get tested — whether you’ve had symptoms or not,” Ferrer said. “You don’t want to be the person spreading this infection onward to others.”

People who test positive need to isolate themselves so they don’t infect other people, and should mask up when they’ve completed the isolation period and leave their home. People can get tested by their healthcare provider; coronavirus testing sites listed on L.A. County’s websites offer tests for free.

Increasing evidence about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and California’s low case rates convince experts it’s safe to stop wearing masks.

Officials will require workers to mask up indoors if not everyone in a room is vaccinated

Under a proposal recommended by the state Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board on Thursday, California is set to lift mask requirements June 15 for workers in situations where everyone in a room is fully vaccinated and doesn’t have COVID-19 symptoms.

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But if even one unvaccinated worker, or a guest for whom the employer doesn’t have vaccination records, enters, then every employee in the room will still have to mask up, according to the proposal, drafted by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA.

The plan also proposes that, until July 31, all employees in indoor settings or outdoor events of 10,000 or more people must continue to either physically distance from others or be given the option to wear respirators — like an N95 respirator — for voluntary use.

Certain settings, like schools, camps and hospitals, will have stricter requirements

Officials will still have special requirements for settings like schools, day camps, daycare, hospitals, healthcare facilities and high-risk congregate settings. And masking, distancing and infection control measures will still be required in those settings, Ferrer said.

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The world’s leading COVID-19 vaccines may offer lasting protection that diminishes the need for frequent booster shots, scientists say.

Some businesses may decide to keep masking requirements

It’s possible that some businesses will require customers to wear masks even though the state and county will no longer require them.

L.A. County next week will post a list of best practices that will help businesses to make plans.

Germany, Greece and five other European Union nations have introduced a COVID-19 vaccination certificate system on the eve of summer tourist season.

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