'Not backed by science': L.A. County sheriff will not enforce mask mandate

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NBC News 17 July, 2021 - 10:53am 57 views

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Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Friday he will not use his department to enforce a mandatory indoor mask requirement set to take effect this weekend amid a spike in COVID-19 cases across the county since its reopening.

On Thursday, the county Department of Public Health revived a requirement that masks be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status, a month after California dropped its statewide mask mandate for vaccinated people.

"We’re not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late, given what we’re seeing," L.A. County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said in a virtual briefing with reporters.

In a statement, Villanueva said forcing those who are vaccinated or who have contracted COVID-19 to wears masks indoors "is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines."

"The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance," he said. "We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science."

Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathy Barger also voiced her opposition to the order. 

"I am concerned by rising cases, but I don't believe the mask mandate will help efforts to stress vaccine efficacy and compel unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated," she tweeted Friday. "LA County should remain aligned with the State instead of creating confusion and disagreement at the local level."

Fox News has reached out to the Department of Public Health but has not heard back. 

The new mandate goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday. All indoor spaces, including gyms, retail stores, large events, offices and restaurants – when not eating or drinking – will require the wearing of a mask. 

It was not clear how long health officials plan to keep the order. David said transmission of the coronavirus has steadily increased since the county's June 15 reopening. The Delta variant, which is more contagious than other stains, has raised concerns from health officials, as well. 

On Friday, the Public Health Department said the COVID-19 positivity rate increased 700% in one month – jumping from 0.5% to 3.7%. The agency urged residents to get vaccinated. 

"The vaccines can protect you from serious illness, hospitalization and death," it tweeted. 

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Read full article at NBC News

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Villanueva said in a statement that forcing masks “is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.”

He continued, “The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) has authority to enforce the order, but the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance,” he said. “We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.”

The new mandate arrives a month after the state dropped its mask requirements. The new rules require all indoor spaces, including gyms, retail stores, large events, offices and restaurants (the latter when not eating or drinking) will require a mask.

On Friday, the Public Health Department said the COVID-19 positivity rate increased 700% in one month – jumping from 0.5% to 3.7%.

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