The Los Angeles county sheriff’s office will not enforce a new mandatory indoor mask mandate set to go into effect at midnight, it said in a statement released Saturday, as Covid infections and hospitalisations continued to rise.
“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.
Health authorities said 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 hospitalisations.
Los Angeles is the first large US metropolis to reimpose the use of face masks – regardless of vaccination status – in shops, grocery stores, restaurants and workplaces 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.
That guidance, the CDC made clear, did not overrule state and local laws or regulations.
However, after peaking in April, the US immunisation campaign has slowed significantly, even though plenty of vaccines are available.
The increase in Covid-19 cases, mainly due to the spread of the Delta variant, has some officials worried.
The vast majority of people testing positive for Covid-19, some of whom must be hospitalised, have not been vaccinated.