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Universal indoor masking may soon return in Los Angeles County as omicron subvariants surge

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Los Angeles County is getting closer to bringing back an indoor masking mandate.

The county is on the verge of moving into the CDC’s “high” level of community transmission. Staying two weeks at that level would automatically trigger an indoor masking mandate.

A return of the mandate appears imminent as new omicron subvariants fuel a summer surge.

But how do people feel about it?

Like many residents, Roman Lomtadze says he’s not ready to go back to masking.

“I’m really not sure about it,” he said.

“I think they do work. But telling people that they must wear them? I think that’s where I’m starting to have a problem with that,” Lomtadze said.

Health officials report the highly transmissible omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 now account for 40% of sequenced cases.

“That’s two and a half times higher than it was just two weeks earlier,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “Both BA.4 and BA.5 are of special concern because of their ability to evade prior immunity.”

This means people who were previously infected with other variants can get it again.

“This is real, and the county has indicated that we’re heading towards indoor masking again,” said L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

L.A. County reported 100 COVID-19 deaths in the past week – the highest total in three months.

“More people have died this year from COVID than flu, than from homicides, than from car accidents combined. I think all of us want this to be done. We think that it’s done, but it’s still quite dangerous,” said Garcetti.

He said the goal of universal indoor masking is to knock down the spread. And if everyone participated, we wouldn’t have to do it for long.

“It’s for the safety of you but it’s also for the safety of others,” said Orian Gaston who is visiting from Texas.

“If everybody does it, then yes if it’s required,” said tourist Mark Freegard

“We’d be happy to wear a mask if that was the mandate and everybody was doing it,” said Freegard’s wife, Alison.

“You know it sucks,” said Clyde Hayes of Los Angeles.

“But we got to do what we got to do,” said Kayla Star of Los Angeles.

“We gotta do what we gotta do to get back to normal,” said Hayes.

The White House COVID-19 response team is urging eligible Americans to get caught up on their vaccines and boosters. Wednesday, the FDA authorized the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine for people 18 and older, making it the fourth vaccine to receive an emergency use authorization.

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