Health officials recommend

masks in indoor settings

nRapid spread of ‘Delta’ variant

By City News Service

Breaking from current guidance allowing residents who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to shed their face masks in most situations, Los Angeles County health officials are “strongly’’ recommending that everyone wear masks in indoor public places due to rapid spread of a highly contagious virus mutation.

The county Department of Public Health urges everyone—regardless of vaccination status—to wear masks in settings such as grocery or retail stores, theaters, family entertainment centers and workplaces when the vaccination status of other workers isn’t known.

“Until we better understand how and to whom the ‘Delta’ variant is spreading, everyone should focus on maximum protection with minimum interruption to routine as all businesses operate without other restrictions like physical distancing and capacity limits,’’ according to a statement from the agency.

The “Delta’’ variant of COVID-19 originated in India, and is blamed for rampant infections in that country and outbreaks in the United Kingdom and beyond. Federal health authorities are estimating that 20 percent of all new COVID infections in the country are now due to the “Delta’’ variant, up from 10 percent a week ago.

The variant is considered to be far more contagious than previous mutations of the COVID-19 virus, and potentially capable of making patients more severely ill. Health officials have said people who are fully vaccinated are protected against the variant.

“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,’’ Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. “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.’’

In the last seven days, 123 cases of the “Delta’’ variant had been identified in the county, roughly double the number from a week earlier. But since the county conducts very limited sequential testing required to identify the variant, she said the rising number means there are likely many more such infections in the community.