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L.A. County sheriff won't enforce mask mandate because it is "not backed by science"

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Friday that his department would not enforce an L.A. County mask order, saying it is "not backed by science."

Driving the news: Villanueva's statement comes one day after L.A. county officials announced a new mask mandate for residents in indoor public locations regardless of vaccine status, effective Saturday at 11:59 p.m.

What he's saying: "Forcing the vaccinated and those who already contracted COVID-19 to wear masks indoors is not backed by science and contradicts the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines," Villanueva said in a statement.

  • "The underfunded/defunded Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will not expend our limited resources and instead ask for voluntary compliance," he added.

The big picture: The mask order comes amid rising coronavirus cases in the county.

  • For the seven-day period that ended Wednesday, the county’s average was 1,077 new cases a day. On Thursday, the county reported 1,537 additional cases, per the Los Angeles Times.
  • Individuals who are unvaccinated make up the vast majority of new hospitalizations, cases and deaths.
  • Between Dec. 7 and June 7, the unvaccinated accounted for 99.6% of the county’s coronavirus cases, 98.7% of COVID-19 hospitalizations and 99.8% of deaths, per the Times.
  • Among the Los Angeles county population, 69% of those eligible have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 61% are fully vaccinated, per county data.
  • The California Department of Public Health and the CDC maintain that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors, per the Times.

Zoom out: Bay Area health officials are also urging all residents to wear masks indoors as cases of the highly contagious delta variant are rising, per CBS News.

  • Officials in Las Vegas, Nevada, are advising everyone — vaccinated or not — to wear face coverings in crowds and indoor places amid rising coronavirus cases, AP reports.
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