Dr. Ashish Jha, President Biden’s COVID-19 coordinator, voiced support on Sunday for Los Angeles County preparing to bring back its mask mandate, as the area has seen a surge in coronavirus cases driven by the BA.5 variant of the omicron strain.
Los Angeles is on pace to bring back its universal indoor mask mandate on July 29, unless the county drops below the CDC’s “high” transmission threshold by that point. Jha was asked about Los Angeles’ move to bring back its mask mandate during his appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
“My view on this has been very clear, which is local jurisdictions, cities, counties, states should make decisions about mask mandates because communities are different and their patterns of transmission are different,” Jha explained.
“That said, CDC has very clear guidance on this as well through their COVID community levels. And the CDC recommendation is that when you’re in a high zone, that sort of orange zone as L.A. County is, you know, people wearing masks indoors is really important, and it really will make a difference.”
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BA.5, THE VACCINE-RESISTANT VARIANT OF OMICRON
Earlier in the interview, Jha said that it’s “really important to remind people of the science, the public health science and the public health science is very clear. If you’re in a crowded indoor space, especially if it’s poorly ventilated, wearing a mask reduces your risk of infection and reduces your risk of spreading it to others. So we’ve got to continue to encourage people to do that.”
BA.5 is the latest coronavirus variant to drive increases in infections around the globe.
According to the World Health Organization’s most recent report, it was behind 52% of cases sequenced in late June, up from 37% in one week. In the United States, it is estimated to be causing around 65% of infections.
Like its closely related sibling, BA.4, BA.5 is particularly good at evading the immune protection afforded either by vaccination or prior infection.
BA.5 has a growth advantage over the other sublineages of Omicron that are circulating,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, told reporters last week.
Reuters contributed reporting