L.A. County to require COVID masks at large outdoor events

In the latest move aimed at stymying the spread of the coronavirus, Los Angeles County will require face coverings for anyone attending sizable outdoor events — such as concerts, festivals and sports contests — regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Issued Monday, the new order applies to what the county called “outdoor mega events,” that attract crowds of more than 10,000 people.

In those cases, attendees must “wear face masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking,” the order states. That’s further defined as “the limited time during which the mask can be removed briefly to eat or drink, after which it must be immediately put back on.”

The order goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

It’s unclear why the county chose to issue the new requirement now. There was no mention of the forthcoming order in the COVID-19 update the Department of Public Health issued Monday.

However, county officials have regularly pointed to face coverings as one of the more effective tools available to help blunt transmission of the coronavirus, particularly in higher-risk situations.

And given the rapid spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, some experts have said even fully vaccinated individuals would do well to take additional precautions.

“Given that the Delta variant is more easily spread and hospitalizations continue to rise, common sense precautions are appropriate, and adding in extra layers of protection makes the most sense,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a briefing last week. “This includes masking, distancing and avoiding very crowded settings as much as possible. Unvaccinated people need to be particularly careful.”

Health officials have long noted that the risk of coronavirus transmission is lower outside than indoors, where air can’t circulate as freely.

L.A. County, for instance, reinstituted a requirement for universal masking in indoor public areas in mid-July. However, the county — much like the rest of the state — has largely allowed residents to go without face coverings in outdoor settings. Still, officials have consistently recommended that residents consider wearing masks in crowded situations.

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