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Santa Monica Hits Fewest Weekly Cases Since Start of Pandemic, Masks Must Stay On

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By Jorge Casuso

May 19, 2021 -- The number of weekly COVID-19 cases in Santa Monica dropped to the lowest level since the first week of the pandemic, but those in the city -- including the vaccinated -- must continue wearing face masks for another month.

Local reported cases dropped to eight last week, the lowest weekly level since seven cases were reported nearly 14 months ago, according to an analysis of data from the Los Angeles County Health Department.

There were no COVID-related deaths reported in the city of more than 93,000 for the second straight week. One resident with the virus has died over the past month.

On Wednesday, Interim City Manager Lane Dilg updated the City's face covering order when she signed the 36th supplement to Santa Monica’s local emergency.

The order -- which aligns with guidance from the County and State -- requires that face coverings "continue to be worn indoors and around crowds, including for those who have been vaccinated."

"This allows time for the vaccination rate to increase leading up to the full reopening of the state’s economy on June 15, when face coverings will only be required in certain settings," City officials said in a statement.

"Crowded space" is defined as "a space outside of one’s residence where a person cannot maintain at least 6 feet of distance from non-household members and it is unknown whether all persons present are fully vaccinated," according to the order.

"A crowded space includes, but is not limited to, live performances, parades, sporting events, and the Santa Monica Pier, Ocean Front Walk, and the Third Street Promenade on weekends, national holidays, and after 12 p.m. on Fridays."

“This supplement further signals the return to normal we’ve worked so hard to reach," Dilg said.

Last week Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that on June 15, California will officially lift the mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents, following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

Until then the existing mask rules will remain in place, State officials said.

"This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change," Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's top health official, said during a press conference Monday.

It will ultimately be up to the state's 58 counties to set their own masking rules.

"Always, local health jurisdictions can put in place stricter guidelines than the state," Ghaly said. "And of course, private businesses can drive how they implement this as well as throughout this pandemic."

Following the CDC guidelines, many states have lifted their mask mandates, including New York, which allowed those who have been vaccinated to go maskless starting today.

Some experts contend there is no reason to force those who have been vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings.

"There is immense collateral damage that comes from not easing restrictions after most people are vaccinated," Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told SFGATE on Friday.

"It sends a message that there's still a danger when there isn't one, and then schools remain closed and businesses suffer," Gandhi said.

"Some collateral damage from restrictions needed to occur when we didn't have vaccines, but now that we have them, there's no justification."

According to LA County Health officials, 56,121 of Santa Monica's approximately 93,000 residents had been vaccinated as of May 2.

As of 6 p.m. Sunday, there were 4,807 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Santa Monica and 183 virus-related deaths, according to LA County Health.

In addition to modifying the City's mask Mandate, Santa Monica's supplemental order allows the City to resume imposing late payment penalties for unpaid or delinquent parking citations.

It also allows it to resume enforcing parking restrictions and limitations in Green Parking Zones and towing vehicles with delinquent parking citations and expired registration.

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