LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21, 2022 - - Palisades Charter High School students ride the MTA Expo line after school let out in Los Angeles on Thursday, April 21, 2022. Masks will again be required on all public transit within Los Angeles County, including buses, trains, taxis and ride-hailing service vehicles, under a new COVID-19 health order that will take effect Friday, April 22, 2022. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Palisades Charter High School students ride an Metro E line train on April 21. In addition to masks already being required on public transit, Los Angeles County officials say indoor mask mandates are possible by the end of the month if coronavirus conditions continue to deteriorate. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

As coronaviruses enter the danger zone in many parts of the state, officials are moving towards new indoor mask rules.

After a big decline in the beginning of the year, the virus has spread quickly across California. It's going to be an anxious summer in which officials are talking about a return to mask wearing.

The biggest concern has been in Northern California. If conditions don't improve by the end of the month, mask mandates can be made.

Why are masks back on the agenda?

Universal indoor masking is recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when a county enters the high COVID-19 community level.

The hospital systems may grow strained if the new weekly rates of hospitalizations are affected by coronaviruses-positive patients.

13 California counties were placed in the high level by the CDC. Since March, no county in the state has been in that level.

A high proportion of Californians live in a high COVID-19 community. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Solano, Marin and Napa are included.

What actions are being taken?

The first California county to mandate a mask for most indoor public settings was Alameda County.

Oakland is the second most populous city in the Bay Area. It is the first mandate issued in California since the winter.

Berkeley, which has its own public health department, does not apply to K-12 school settings through the end of the school year. The school system in Berkeley has an indoor mask requirement.

The seriousness of the moment is reflected by the action taken by the health officer.

We can't say when this wave will end. We can limit the impact of a wave on our communities if we put our masks on again.

For the past week, Alameda County has reported 354 cases of coronaviruses for every 100,000 residents. The figure has gone up from mid- May to now. The rate of 100 cases a week or more is considered high.

What are the details?

In order to comply with the Alameda County order, masks must be worn at indoor businesses and places of business, including offices, stores, theaters and conference centers, as well as restaurants and bars when not eating or drinking. The health order said that businesses and venue operators are required to post signs at entrance points to communicate the mask requirement.

In the last few days of the school year, masking won't be required. While working alone in a closed office or room, swimming or showering at a gym, or getting a medical service involving the head or face for which mask removal is needed, don't wear masks.

Alameda County allows masks to be optional for performers at indoor live events, such as the theater, opera, symphony, religious choirs and professional sports, as well as at religious gatherings when necessary to perform rituals, and at indoor gyms and yoga studios.

In other settings, masks will be required. Children younger than 2 are not allowed to wear masks.

What about other places?

A mask order has been issued by the Berkeley school system.

Other educational institutions in California have done the same. New mask measures were announced by the schools.

Where does Los Angeles County stand?

If the upward trends continue, a new universal indoor mask mandate could be in place this month.

The weekly case rate and increase in hospital admissions are of concern. We are likely to move into the CDC high community level within a few weeks towards the end of June, signalling increased stress on the healthcare system.

The number of new coronaviruses-positive hospitalizations for every 100,000 residents in L.A. County increased by 18% in the last week. A rate of 10 or more places L.A. County in a high COVID-19 community.

Ventura County had a new weekly hospitalization rate of 7.6, Santa Barbara County had a rate of 6.3, Orange County had a rate of 5.3, and San Diego County had a rate of 4.9.

What are experts saying?

There is not a good idea of how bad the summer wave will be in California. Deaths and hospitalizations are not very high.

There is no sign that California is near a peak, as the latest variant is thought to be approaching that of measles. State modeling shows that the spread of COVID-19 is increasing in Southern California.

Even if hospitals don't become overburden, there's concern that climbing rates of transmission could keep people at home for a week or more, ruining plans for graduations, weddings and vacations and making it difficult for businesses to maintain adequate staff.

A mask order is one of the least burdensome to the public when it comes to COVID-19 restrictions.

If you are going to try and stay in front of this and try and restrict the damage that is going on, it strikes me as a low level ask to have people wear a mask.

We are not talking about mandatory vaccinations, we are not talking about mandatory testing. If both people wear masks, it is highly effective. It's something we're used to doing

The story was originally published in the LA Times.