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Los Angeles wants all restaurant customers and staffs to mask up again

Authorities say they're trying to tamp down the spread of the Delta coronavirus before it morphs into a vaccine-resistant form.
Masked LA
Photograph: Shutterstock

Two weeks after California allowed restaurant guests and staffs to forgo facemasks if they’d been vaccinated against COVID-19, Los Angeles County officials are advising everyone who goes out for a meal to mask up again.

The county health department issued a recommendation Tuesday that anyone in an indoor public space wear a face covering, even if they’ve been fully inoculated against coronavirus. The authorities explained that masks are necessary again because the so-called Delta variant of the virus is spreading at breakneck speed. More than half the new COVID cases diagnosed the week of June 12 were caused by the Delta version of the virus.

Although the three federally approved vaccines have proven effective in resisting the more-infectious and pernicious new strain, officials say they fear the virus’ continued rapid spread will yield new variants that can withstand inoculation.

In addition, the experts note that a significant portion of California residents have not yet been fully vaccinated, leaving the state vulnerable to another spike in new COVID-19 cases. The peak could hit in late summer or early fall—just when children are returning en masse to school. Federal agencies have yet to approve the vaccination of youngsters under age 12.

The Los Angeles County Department of Health termed its advisory a strong recommendation but stopped short of requiring masks again.

For some restaurants, the advice will have little effect. Restaurants were permitted starting June 15 to let guests enter the premises without a mask if they could prove they were fully inoculated. Staff members who’d been vaccinated could similarly forgo a face covering if everyone in the place, including co-workers, had rolled up their sleeves and could prove it.

Because verification is difficult, some places continued to require that guests and frontline employees continue to wear masks.

The health department’s recommendation extended only to wearing face coverings. The agency did not advise establishments to re-institute such additional safeguards as keeping guest parties six feet apart.

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