August 13, 2022

Ventura County enacts indoor mask order as hospitalizations jump

Ventura County has ordered that people wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination…

Ventura County has ordered that people wear masks in indoor public settings regardless of vaccination status, a policy in effect for a majority of Californians.

It is the fourth county in Southern California to adopt the mask order; Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Imperial counties have also implemented them. So has much of the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento County, Santa Cruz County and a number of rural counties in Northern California.

Los Angeles County was the first county in California — and among the first nationwide — this summer to reimpose a mask mandate in indoor public settings. L.A. County’s indoor mask order went into effect on July 17.

At least 20 counties in California have ordered indoor mask mandates, affecting more than 21 million Californians, or at least 53% of the state’s population.

Ventura County’s order was announced on the same day that the region’s COVID-19 per capita hospitalization rate became worse than that of Los Angeles County. As of Friday, for every 100,000 residents, Ventura County had 18 people in the hospital who have the coronavirus; in L.A. County, there are 17.

Hospitalizations have been increasing since early July in Ventura County, and hit a new summertime high on Friday, with 156 people in the hospital with the coronavirus; on July 1, there were 11 people hospitalized.

By contrast, in Los Angeles County, hospitalizations on Friday fell for the third consecutive day. On Friday, there were 1,746 people hospitalized with coronavirus infections, down from the summer peak of 1,790 recorded Tuesday. On July 1, there were 275 people with coronavirus infections in L.A. County’s hospitals.

Ventura County’s mask order took effect at 11:59 p.m. Friday, but businesses and other settings won’t need to enforce the order until Monday at 11:59 p.m. “I expect that this will have a beneficial effect on the increase in COVID-19 infections we are seeing,” the health officer, Dr. Robert Levin, said in a statement.

Masks in Ventura County are now required to be worn in indoor public settings like stores, gyms, yoga studios, offices, restaurants, bars, theaters and conference centers. Business and venue operators will be required to post signage at entrances to inform the public of the masking requirement.

Children younger than 2 are exempt from the mask requirement, as are performers in indoor live events such as the theater, opera, symphony and professional sports. People engaged in water-based sports such as swimming are exempt, as are sports like wrestling and judo in which masks create imminent risk to health.

“All other indoor recreational sports, gyms, and yoga studios shall comply with this order,” the order states.

Epidemiologists and health experts say it’s important for more people to wear masks as “breakthrough infections” — coronavirus infections that occur in fully vaccinated people — become less rare.

Fully vaccinated people are still highly protected against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, but vaccinated people who do become infected are also capable of transmitting the virus, although probably for significantly fewer days than unvaccinated people.

Federal officials are also crafting plans to begin giving booster shots, starting in late September, to people who have been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots, and for whom eight months have elapsed since they received their second dose. Booster shots are also expected to be likely for people who have been vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“Masking indoors must again become a normal practice by all, regardless of vaccination status, so that we can stop the trends and level of transmission we are currently seeing,” Levin said. “We continue to urge all eligible residents to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their family and friends. Becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19 remains the best protective action that people can take.”

Other counties in California that have enacted indoor mask mandates include Yolo, Humboldt, Nevada, Colusa, Mono and Sierra counties. In the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, eight counties — San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Sonoma, Marin and Napa — have also ordered mask wearing in indoor public settings.