Los Angeles County Superior Court will end its mask mandate for courthouses beginning April 4, following similar moves in recent weeks by county and state public health officials.
“Since the winter COVID-19 surge peaked in L.A. County in mid-January, [the L.A. County Department of Public Health] indicates that ‘case and test positivity rates and hospitalizations have consistently declined,’” Presiding Judge Eric Taylor said in a release. “These benchmarks have guided the court’s measured approach during the pandemic.”
After the mandate expires, the court will still recommend the use of masks while indoors in accordance with public health guidance and “remain vigilant in monitoring emerging virus threats,” Taylor said.
The county court system delayed start dates for criminal trials in January in response to a coronavirus surge driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant.
In late February, after California had lifted its universal mask mandate for indoor public places, Taylor noted “hopeful signs that the winter surge has subsided” but said “the court will remain vigilant in providing safe access to justice in the nation’s largest trial court.”
The Superior Court had retained its mandate for all people even after the county followed the state in easing requirements.
On March 4, L.A. County dropped its indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status, after data showed that the county’s coronavirus community level had fallen to “low,” according to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After March 11, the county aligned with California’s move to remove the masking requirement for schools, and the Los Angeles Unified School District followed suit Wednesday after reaching an agreement with the teachers union.
Still, as cases of an Omicron coronavirus subvariant known as BA.2 continue to rise in L.A. County, public health officials are urging residents to mask up despite the expired mandates.
“Along with the increasing circulation of the more-infectious BA.2 subvariant, everyone, especially those who are at elevated risk or live with someone at elevated risk, should wear a high-quality mask and get vaccinated and boosted,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Thursday.
BA.2 is believed to be 30% to 60% more contagious than an earlier Omicron subvariant but does not appear to result in a more severe illness.