Los Angeles County will lift nearly all of its indoor mask and vaccine verification requirements, local officials announced on Thursday.
Starting on Friday, masks will no longer be mandatory in public settings like grocery stores, restaurants and bars. And proof of vaccination or negative test results will no longer be necessary to enter indoor bars, wineries or most other businesses.
California state rules still require proof of vaccination or negative test results to enter large indoor events, as well as masks on transit and in other high-risk settings, including hospitals.
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, cited new federal guidelines for measuring risk in communities in her office’s decision to remove restrictions sooner than expected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated measures, she said, Los Angeles County is in the low-risk category.
Still, Dr. Ferrer said that masks were strongly recommended, and individual businesses could opt to keep in place requirements.
“Covid-19 is a deadly virus, and it’s still with us — it ebbs and flows,” she said. “We need to take advantage of the good times we’re about to be in, where we’re seeing much less risk across the board for so many, and be prepared, should we see a new variant.”
Although the city of Los Angeles will, for the time being, still require bars, restaurants and many other indoor businesses to check vaccine status, the moment marks a major symbolic milestone for Angelenos who have weathered some of the nation’s deadliest surges and have lived under some of the nation’s most enduring restrictions.
Dr. Ferrer has been a particular voice of caution, even as her department has faced frustration from residents who believed stringent rules were unnecessary.
In recent weeks, though, Dr. Ferrer, along with other public health officials across the country, has shifted her focus toward measures to prevent surges, hospitalizations and deaths.
She said the county would continue to help residents get vaccinated, and that her department would continue to track case data closely to intervene before outbreaks at schools or businesses spiral out of control. Dr. Ferrer emphasized that the county would work to ensure that all communities have equitable access to therapeutics for people who get sick with Covid-19.
On Monday, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington jointly announced that on March 12, they would lift statewide mask requirements in schools, which were some of the last remaining statewide restrictions. And California officials lifted a mask mandate for unvaccinated people in indoor public spaces on Tuesday.