City extends masking requirement aboard transit, transportation hubs due to spikes in COVID cases

Long Beach is extending a requirement that all passengers use masks while aboard public transit and at indoor transportation hubs across the city in response to continued increasing COVID-19 cases and outbreaks across the county.

The growing levels of COVID-19 rates across Los Angeles County moved Long Beach from “low” to “medium” virus-activity levels two weeks ago, prompting city officials to urge the public to once again use safety precautions such as wearing masks indoors and continuing to get vaccinated.

Long Beach began reporting a steady growth rate since the week of April 11. The city, which has its own health department, reported a significant spike last week with nearly 1,600 new cases. Hospitalizations and deaths, however, have remained low with health officials attributing the results to the vaccine.

Earlier this week, department officials said they were not considering placing any restrictions on the public yet, but mounting cases and a seven-day case rate of 230 per 100,000, which is more than triple what it was around April, leading officials to take necessary precautions. 

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it: We are facing an uphill battle,” Health Department spokeswoman Jennifer Rice Epstein said this week, adding that the department canvases neighborhoods citywide almost every day offering shots. “But the data are not disputed: People who get vaccinated and boosted are far less likely to become hospitalized or die of COVID-19.”

In Long Beach, just under 69.7% of residents have been fully vaccinated against the virus, while just under 77% have received at least one dose.

Following the reassessment of the health order, people 2 years and older will be required to use a mask in any indoor area that serves as a transportation hub, along with commuter trains, buses and ride shares—regardless of whether a person is vaccinated.

The department will reevaluate the masking requirement every 30 days, if the seven-day case rates drop to below 50 per 100,000 or if the CDC announces people are no longer required to wear masks in transportation corridors—whichever comes first, according to the city.

“Until then, the City must continue to require community-level prevention strategies, including masking on public transit and in transportation hubs, to protect the most vulnerable in high-risk settings and safeguard the health care system,” the city said in a statement Friday. “Traveling on public conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing people in close contact with people outside their households, often for prolonged periods, and often in crowded settings.”

COVID spikes again in Long Beach, but vaccines have kept hospitalizations and deaths down

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Fernando Haro is the Long Beach Post's breaking news and public safety reporter.
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