O.C. residents told to mask up indoors, after officials confirm they’ll follow state guidelines

Shoppers at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.
Shoppers at Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza in June. County health officials are advising all residents to wear masks indoors, after the Delta variant strain of coronavirus was found to be transmittable among vaccinated individuals.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Orange County residents will once again have to cover their faces while inside, after the county Health Care Agency confirmed it would adhere to new state guidelines recommending indoor mask-wearing for vaccinated individuals and requiring it for the unvaccinated.

Dr. Regina Chinsio-Kwong, deputy health director for the agency, said Thursday officials are now advising all residents to follow guidelines issued Wednesday by the California Department of Public Health, which including universal masking indoors.

“Currently California is considered to have ‘substantial’ transmission of COVID and some counties have high transmission,” she wrote in an email. “Because of the ‘substantial-high transmission’ of COVID in our community, universal masking in indoor public settings is recommended for [the] fully vaccinated.”

Further, Chinsio-Kwong clarified, mask-wearing is required for anyone not fully vaccinated.

Disneyland, Universal Studios and Magic Mountain are among the California parks returning to stricter mask requirements amid the latest COVID-19 surge.

The news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revises its own mask guidelines, after recently learning the Delta variant strain of the coronavirus could still be transmitted by people who’d received the COVID-19 vaccine.

Although the vaccine may offer protection against COVID-19 hospitalization and death, CDC found vaccinated individuals still carried high loads of the virus and could spread it to others.

In Orange County, the public health threat that poses to the more than 1.1 million residents who have not received even one dose of the vaccine looms large.

Genome sequencing conducted on samples of the virus taken from throughout the county indicates the Delta variant was first identified the week of April 26 and has since become the dominant strain.

New data points on the Health Care Agency’s online COVID-19 dashboard — which had been updated on a weekly basis but recently returned to daily reports — show infection rates among the unvaccinated outnumber those among people who’ve gotten the vaccine, by 5 to 1.

OCHA Research Manager Curtis Condon said Thursday the new information on variants was added to better inform policy makers, the media and members of the public about variant activity in Orange County.

The agency on Friday reported 593 new cases, the highest on record since Feb. 8, including 252 individuals hospitalized with COVID-19. Among those, 59 were being treated in intensive care units.

By now, we all know that the Delta variant is about twice as transmissible as the original coronavirus. What exactly makes it so good at spreading?

Chinsio-Kwong urges residents to get vaccinated and complete their two-dose regimen.

“Above all, vaccinate,” she advises, adding that all emergency-use-authorized vaccines have been proven safe and effective against the Delta variant. “All who are eligible, ages 12 and up, are encouraged to get vaccinated ASAP.”

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