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COVID Cases Flattening as County Weighs Indoor Masking

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By Jorge Casuso

July 25, 2022 -- There were 406 coronavirus cases reported in Santa Monica last week, down from 464, reflecting a downward trend countywide as health officials prepare to reimpose indoor masking.

In Los Angeles County, cases over the past seven days dropped to 42,878 on Monday, down from 48,038 over the previous seven days, according to Los Angeles County Health data.

And hospitalizations, which are a key metric used by County officials, also dropped -- from 1,329 on Thursday to 1,200 on Saturday.

The downward trend comes as County officials -- concerned about the spread of the highly contagious but milder BA.4 and BA.5 subvarients -- are expected to announce on Thursday whether they will bring back the indoor masking mandates they lifted nearly five months ago.

“You can see here this sign of plateauing cases of the past week, and we do hope this continues,” County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a press briefing Thursday.

“I do want to note, however, that over the past two months, we have seen some small dips that were then followed by additional increases, so it does make sense for us to continue to be cautious, given the relatively high number of cases we see.”

Ferrer added that a steep decline in the numbers could cause officials to "take a pause on moving too quickly on a universal indoor masking" since "it’s likely that a couple of weeks from now, our hospitalizations will also decline.”

A rising hospitalization rate was a key metric that pushed the County past the High Covid Community Level threshold of 10 hospitalizations per 100,000 people set by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Health officials have said they would reimpose the indoor masking mandates if it remains at that level for two consecutive weeks, a move that would make Los Angeles County the only county in California to reimpose an indoor mask mandate.

On Monday, LA County Supervisor Kathryn Barger sent a public letter to her constituents saying that “masking mandates are polarizing and unenforceable” and have little impact on curbing the spread of the virus.

“I have not seen any empirical data that conclusively shows that masking mandates make a difference in decreasing or stopping COVID-19 transmission rates,” Barger wrote.

“An analysis of Alameda County’s June 2022 masking mandate, in fact, concluded it had no significant impact in comparison to its surrounding counties that did not impose a masking mandate. Alameda County dropped this mandate after only three weeks.”

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva has said his officers would not be enforcing an indoor masking mandate.

Last week's tally brings the total number of cases in Santa Monica to 22,501, while the number of residents who have died with the virus remained at 251.

Countywide, there have been a total of 3,253,323 positive cases of COVID-19 reported and 32,604 virus-related deaths.

There were 1,247 people with COVID-19 hospitalized last Thursday, according to the latest count.

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