“Public Health strongly recommends people wear masks indoors in settings such as grocery or retail stores; theaters and family entertainment centers, and workplaces when you don’t know everyone’s vaccination status,” the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement on Monday.
The county’s recommendation comes about two weeks after Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted California’s mask mandate and ended lockdown provisions in the state.
But the agency said that the mask recommendation—which is not a mandate—is being issued because officials don’t know the exact effects or the transmission rate of the Delta variant. They also suggested that the variant might be able to lead to breakthrough COVID-19 cases among vaccinated individuals
“While COVID-19 vaccine provides very effective protection preventing hospitalizations and deaths against the Delta variant, the strain is proving to be more transmissible and is expected to become more prevalent,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
“Mask wearing remains an effective tool for reducing transmission, especially indoors where the virus may be easily spread through inhalation of aerosols emitted by an infected person.”
The county also recommended that residents should focus on “maximum protection with minimum interruption to routine as all businesses operate without other restrictions, like physical distancing and capacity limits.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) has similarly called on people to wear masks due to the Delta variant, which is believed to have emerged in India. Meanwhile, Hong Kong officials also announced this week that it will ban travelers from the UK over concerns about the strain.
Those warnings came after officials in Israel said that half the adults infected in a recent Delta COVID-19 outbreak fully vaccinated, according to the Wall Street Journal late last week.
However, some have said that the concerns about the Delta strain are overblown.
“Don’t let the fearmongers win,” wrote Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday.
“New public England study of delta variant shows 44 deaths out of 53,822 (.08%) in unvaccinated group.”
Separately, pharmaceutical giant Moderna said that its two-dose mRNA COVID-19 vaccine works against the Delta strain, which will likely be used in future arguments against new masking or lockdown mandates.
“These new data are encouraging and reinforce our belief that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should remain protective against newly detected variants,” CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a press release issued on Tuesday about the findings.