First published in the Feb. 18 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The South Pasadena Unified School District aligned with county officials this week and dropped the requirement for people to wear masks while outdoors on school sites.
The policy modification, which also concerns outdoor “mega events,” was triggered on Tuesday and took effect at midnight Wednesday after Los Angeles County achieved seven consecutive days with fewer than 2,500 residents hospitalized with COVID-19. This represents the county’s first significant drawback on COVID-19 mitigation rules since the onset of the Omicron wave in December.
Health officials indicated that more may be in the pipeline, depending on whether virus transmission and hospitalizations continue to decline.
“While entering post-surge is welcoming news, we are all aware that post-surge does not mean the pandemic is over, or that transmission is low, or that there will not be additional unpredictable waves of surges in the future that will require integrated public health measures,” Barbara Ferrer, the L.A. County director of public health, said in a statement Wednesday. “Post-surge acknowledges the consistent and welcomed declines from the surge peak and realigns our current public health response to meet current mitigation needs. We anticipate, that with continued steep declines in case numbers indicating much lower transmission, we will be able to safely lift indoor mask mandates in mid-March.”
In addition to dropping the outdoor mask mandate, starting on Monday, SPUSD will only send out school-wide notifications if there is a positive case on campuses, as opposed to sending out a message daily regardless.
State officials, who are logging a general decline in COVID-19 across California, anticipate revisiting in-school restrictions by the end of the month. Meanwhile, the L.A. County Department of Public Health plans to shelf its broad indoor masking requirement once the county reaches two milestones: seven consecutive days of 10-49 daily new cases per 100,000 residents, and that there are no emerging reports of significantly circulating new variants of concern “that threaten vaccine effectiveness.”
In any case, federal regulations also continue to require mask use on public transit and at transportation hubs like airports.
L.A. crossed 30,000 cumulative recorded deaths from COVID-19, a grim milestone reached as vaccines remain widely and freely available to people age 5 and up. Around 70% of the county’s more than 10 million residents are recorded as being fully vaccinated, and around 22% of the total population has not received a dose at all.
In South Pasadena, the county reports that 87.4% of residents age 5 and older are fully vaccinated, with 56.4% of those residents having received a booster dose. Broken down by age group, the fully vaccinated include 85.1% of 5-11-year-olds, all 12-17-year-olds and 92.8% of the 65-and-older group.
Since the start of the pandemic, there have been more than 2.77 million positive cases confirmed among L.A. County residents, equivalent to more than a quarter of its population. Vaccines have shown to be a significant factor in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19, with the vast majority of those needing significant care being unvaccinated.
In South Pasadena, nearly half of the cumulative 3,800-plus cases have been logged since the start of 2022. However, in that time, there have been just four deaths.