Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said his department would not enforce a COVID-19 health order mandating people to wear masks indoors, saying it’s “not backed by science” and citing an “underfunded” department.
The statement was issued one day after county officials announced a new mask mandate for residents in indoor public locations regardless of vaccine status, set to take effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m.
“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 Friday.
The CDC guidance states fully vaccinated people can resume daily activities without wearing a mask unless otherwise instructed by workplaces, businesses, or travel authorities.
Villanueva added deputies would “not expend our limited resources” to enforce the order, noting the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is already “underfunded/defunded.” Still, the sheriff said law enforcement requests “voluntary compliance.”
California reported 1,002 new coronavirus cases on June 15, the same day the state fully reopened from previous pandemic measures. Fast forward to Friday when 4,651 new cases were reported, according to the state’s coronavirus tracker — a sign of a new surge with the highly transmissible delta variant spreading nationwide.
Unvaccinated people account for all the COVID-19 patients at county-run hospitals, one official said Tuesday.
“To date, we have not had a patient admitted to a DHS hospital who has been fully vaccinated with either the J&J, Pfizer, or Moderna vaccine,” said Dr. Christina Ghaly, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, according to a local ABC affiliate.
Villanueva encouraged the county’s Department of Public Health to work with the Board of Supervisors and local law enforcement to “establish mandates that are both achievable and supported by science.”
Among the Los Angeles County population, 69.3% of those eligible have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 61% are fully vaccinated, according to county data.
Los Angeles County, the most populous in the country with roughly 10 million residents, leads the United States in total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and confirmed deaths due to the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.