UCLA has ordered a mask mandate in indoor settings on campus, effective Friday, as coronavirus cases continue to climb in Los Angeles County.
Officials said the mask order was needed to avoid disrupting in-person learning and campus activities, including graduation.
“An important strategy to curb the spread of COVID-19, in addition to ongoing testing and daily symptom monitoring, is the consistent use of well-fitting masks indoors,” the campus said in a letter Thursday.
This simple and practical measure and mandate will go back into effect beginning Friday and remain in place through June 15 (subject to extension) for “all students, staff, faculty, affiliates and visitors to the UCLA campus, regardless of vaccination status,” the letter said.
The number of cases at UCLA is high enough that the campus is in its “severe” COVID-19 tier, the worst of four levels used by campus decision-makers.
UCLA’s move comes several days after the Berkeley public school system ordered an indoor mask mandate for students and staff for the remainder of the school year, including indoor graduations. The surge has proved soive that district administrators are again needing to fill in for disruptive teachers who are out sick with COVID-19, the school district said.
Coronavirus cases continue to increase in LA County and statewide. As of late Wednesday, LA County was averaging about 4,000 coronavirus cases a day, or 278 cases a week for every 100,000 residents, up 27% from the previous week. A rate of 100 or more is considered a high rate of transmission.
In a statement Wednesday, LA County health officials warned that coronavirus cases among students and staff at K-12 schools have more than doubled in the last month. Between May 9 to May 15, there were 5,918 coronavirus cases at schools in LA County among students and staff; for the prior month, between April 11 to April 17, there were 2,742 coronavirus cases.
There were 16 outbreaks associated with schools between May 15 to May 21, in which coronavirus transmission was documented in a school setting. “Large outbreaks at a small number of schools have been associated with proms, school events and performances, and field trips, with cases per outbreak ranging from 25-80 among students and staff,” the county Department of Public Health said.
“While transmission in the community remains high, it is important to layer in additional protective measures, especially when gathering for end-of-school year events, to keep school communities as safe as possible,” the county Department of Public Health said in a statement.
“Public Health urges everyone to wear a well-fitting mask when indoors, especially at any indoor school or sporting events. Those attending large celebratory school events should test before attending, and if positive for COVID, remain home away from others,” the department said.
Officials urged people to get updated on their booster shots. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week issued a recommendation that children age 5 to 11 who are vaccinated get a booster shot. The CDC also formally recommended that those age 50 and above, and those 12 and above who are immunocompromised, get a second booster shot if they’re eligible.
“While we recognize that many children who test positive experience mild illness, national trends are showing increases in cases and hospitalization rates for children and more concerns about long term impacts of even mild infection in children,” LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
“We encourage parents, students, teachers, and staff, during this time of high transmission with the most infectious strains seen to date, to wear a mask when indoors and get vaccinated and boosted when eligible,” Ferrer said.
The county remains far from the metrics health officials have said would prompt the return of a universal indoor mask mandate. That would occur should the county reach the “high” COVID-19 community level outlined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
LA County is recording 4.5 new weekly coronavirus-positive hospitalizations for every 100,000 residents, up from the previous week’s rate of 3.7, according to CDC data released Thursday. But that’s still less than half the threshold of 10 that would land the county in the high community level.