By Angie Madrid
LOS ANGELES – With the number of COVID-19 cases surging in Los Angeles County and the introduction of the coronavirus Delta variant, many Angelenos have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with the reinstatement of the mask mandate. Among those showing resistance is Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles County Sheriff who refuses to enforce the mandate.
The Delta variant has rapidly spread throughout the nation, with many doctors proclaiming it to be the most contagious variant of the coronavirus yet. A study conducted by Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the variant spreads onto an individual faster than the original coronavirus strain—whereas the original spread in approximately six days, the Delta variant spreads at an average of four days.
The variant continues to spread within California, especially within Los Angeles County. Los Angeles reported 2,551 new infections in one day, the largest number of cases since March.
Skyrocketing infections have moved Los Angeles County officials within the Department of Public Health to reinstate the mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status.
As California took steps to go back to normal after the state’s reopening on June 15, many businesses and locations offered the vaccinated population the ability to enter establishments without the need to wear a mask, yet in a matter of months, this has completely changed.
In Los Angeles County, the mask ordinance went into effect Saturday, July 17 at 11:59pm—making it the first major county in the country to reinstate the order.
While establishments such as Starbucks previously presented signs at their door that “recommended” wearing a mask to those vaccinated when entering, the new mask mandate now applies to all. Fully vaccinated or unvaccinated, everyone in the county is now required to wear a mask indoors.
Having experienced some level of normalcy these past few months, many were angered and reluctant to wear masks once again. Showing disdain, a veteran in Agoura Hills argued, “The emperor [California Governor Gavin Newsom] wants us to have masks on again.”
Los Angeles County Sheriff, Alex Villanueva, declared that his department would not enforce the mask mandate.
“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,” he declared in a statement on July 16.
Despite having the authority to enforce the mandate, the sheriff feels no need to do so, arguing that, “the underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance.”
Sheriff Villanueva believes enforcement obligation falls on the hands of the Department of Public Health (DPH), as they recommended the mandate against the ongoing threat of the Delta variant.
Hilda Solis, chairwoman of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor, also believes it is the responsibility of the DPH, but ultimately, the responsibility falls on the public as well.
“The public overall is smart enough to understand what is being said, and how to protect themselves,” said Solis.
Many Los Angeles County officials have expressed difficulty in enforcing the mask mandate after the county reopened. Natalia Jimenez, a county spokeswoman, believed enforcing the mandate would not end the pandemic, but collaboration and understanding within the community would.
Jimenez stated, “We need everyone doing their part to keep themselves and each other safe.”
As debate over the mask mandate continues, the push for higher vaccination rates has as well.
Health officials continue to recommend the public to get vaccinated. Data shows fully vaccinated individuals are better protected against the Delta variant than those who have not been vaccinated.
Governor Gavin Newsom came forward, stating, “The answer to the Delta variant is rather simple: Get vaccinated. We don’t have to have masking if we all got vaccinated.”
Although conflicting opinions about COVID-19 and the Delta variant ensue amongst the Los Angeles County, many other individuals are complying with the orders, despite lack of enforcement.
A customer in a Beverly Hills bakery displayed her compliance, stating, “If it’s for the betterment of the whole, we’ve got to do it, and I’ll roll with it, as inconvenient as it is to me personally.”
Fully vaccinated Lisa Liu also showed lack of concern for having to wear a mask. “Some people think it’s a punishment, but for me it’s a mask—it’s not a big deal,” said Liu.
Other counties around California are following Los Angeles County’s footsteps by also implementing the mask mandate once again, as cases start to increase. San Francisco and Alameda have begun issuing the mask requirement, stirring others to follow suit.
The Los Angeles County mask mandate is ongoing, as the public awaits further information as to whether the county will remain open.
Angie Madrid is a fourth year at UCLA, pursuing a degree in Political Science with a minor in Public Affairs. She is from Los Angeles, CA and would like to pursue law in the future.