Los Angeles County sheriff refuses to enforce indoor mask mandate
- Wearing a face mask in indoor public establishments will again be mandatory in Los Angeles
- "Forcing the vaccinated to wear masks indoors is not backed by science," Los Angeles sheriff said
- On Friday the county reported 1,902 new cases of infection
The Los Angeles County sheriff's office has refused to enforce a new mandatory indoor mask mandate that is set to come into effect at midnight on Saturday, according to a statement as new COVID infections and hospitalizations continued to rise.
Health authorities had said on Thursday that wearing a face mask in indoor public establishments will again be mandatory in Los Angeles starting this weekend due to a steady increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
"Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines," Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement.
"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," it said.
Los Angeles is the first large US city to reimpose the use of face masks in shops, grocery stores, restaurants, and workplaces regardless of vaccination status, to help contain the pandemic.
Los Angeles is "not where we need to be" in terms of numbers of vaccinated people, said county health officer Muntu Davis.
On Friday the county reported 1,902 new cases of infection -- the highest number since early March and the eighth straight day of new cases topping 1,000.
US health officials announced in mid-May that fully vaccinated Americans could, with some exceptions, say goodbye to their masks both outdoors and indoors.
The guidance did not overrule state and local laws or regulations, according to CDC.
However, after peaking in April, the US immunization campaign has slowed significantly, even though plenty of vaccines are available.
The vast majority of people testing positive for COVID-19, some of whom must be hospitalized, have not been vaccinated.