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LA County sheriff points out the obvious about new mask mandate, says officers won't enforce it

Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Friday that his agency will not enforce the new face mask mandate implemented by officials in Los Angeles County.

What is the background?

Los Angeles County health officials announced Thursday they would enact an indoor face mask mandate as COVID-19 cases surge.

"We're not where we need to be for the millions at risk of infection here in Los Angeles County, and waiting to do something will be too late, given what we're seeing," Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said.

The new mandate — which applies to everyone, even fully vaccinated individuals — will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Saturday.

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County officials reinstated the mask mandate after nearly a week of more than 1,000 new daily cases every day. The figure has grown more than ten-fold in just the month since California lifted mask and social distancing rules. The day before California's reopening, June 14, the county reported 135 new cases, while on Friday the figure had spiked to 1,902 new cases. The rise is fueled in part by the more-contagious Delta variant, as well as continued resistance to vaccination. All of the COVID-19 patients in county-run hospitals are unvaccinated, officials say.

What did Villanueva say?

The Los Angeles County top cop revealed his agency would not waste resources enforcing the mandate that he said is not supported by science.

"Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines," Villanueva said in a statement.

Villanueva added, however, that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will encourage voluntary compliance.

"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," Villanueva said. "We encourage the DPH to work collaboratively with the Board of Supervisors and law enforcement to establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science."

What does the CDC say?

According to the most recent guidance published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people can "resume activities that you did prior to the pandemic."

"Fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing," the CDC guidance says, "except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance."

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