While the state is set to lift its indoor mask mandate next week, Long Beach will instead align with Los Angeles County in continuing to require masks indoors as COVID-19 cases remain high, health officials said Tuesday.

State officials announced Monday the indoor mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated people will end on Feb. 15, due to a 65% drop in the infection rate and lower hospitalization numbers since the peak of the omicron-fueled winter surge.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, however, stressed that unvaccinated people will still need to wear masks indoors. The mask-wearing requirement will also remain in effect for everyone in select indoor locations, such as public transit centers, airports, schools, emergency shelters, health care facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care and senior-care facilities.

Long Beach, which has its own health department, said it will keep its broad masking requirements for now but is “looking at post-surge updates to its masking mandates and setting benchmarks for the relaxation of these mandates.”

The city’s daily case rate remains high at 105.5 infections per 100,000 residents, while the rate of people testing positive is 14.9%. The numbers are down from previous weeks, but the indicators still meet the CDC’s definition of “high transmission,” which is a seven-day rate of 100 or more cases per 100,000 residents or a positivity rate of 10% or higher.

At the peak of the mid-January surge, the city was seeing a nearly 30% positivity rate, while daily case soared to more than 400 per 100,000 residents. The number of new daily cases reached its height at 3,070 on Jan. 13 and has been falling steadily for the past three weeks.

The city on Monday reported 219 people hospitalized locally with COVID-19, down from a high of more than 360 in mid-January.

The change in state policy will affect counties that do not have their own local mandates for face coverings, such as Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties.

In Los Angeles County, mask requirements will remain in effect for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people in indoor settings, as well as at large outdoor mega-events, such as Sunday’s Super Bowl at SoFi Stadium.

Last week, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer unveiled metrics for a possible relaxing of the county’s masking orders, saying the mandate will be dropped at outdoor “mega-events” and outdoors at schools and child care centers if COVID-positive hospitalizations in the county fall below 2,500 for seven consecutive days.

Long Beach is looking at two potential criteria before it will relax mask mandates. The city said it will change mandates if transmission falls to between 10 and 50 cases per 100,000 residents and the positivity rate falls to between 5% and 8% for at least two weeks. But city officials also said the requirements could be relaxed without meeting those metrics once a vaccine becomes available for those 4 years old and younger and remains available for eight weeks.

Whenever one of those criteria is met, fully vaccinated people in Long Beach will not be required to wear a facial covering indoors except in the following settings:

  • On public transit, including airplanes, ships, trains, buses and taxis
  • Indoors in K-12 schools and child care facilities
  • At emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers
  • In health care settings
  • At correctional facilities and detention centers
  • In homeless shelters
  • At long-term care settings and adult and senior care facilities

Facial coverings will continue to be required for unvaccinated individuals in indoor public settings and businesses, including restaurants.

The city has also changed its definition of indoor mega events from crowds numbering 500 people to the earlier threshold of 5,000.

The policies for indoor mega events will not change, and operators must verify the full vaccination status or pre-entry negative COVID-19 viral test result of all attendees. Face coverings will continue to be required for all attendees.

Outdoor mega events will revert from crowds numbering 5,000 people to the earlier threshold of 10,000. When there are 2,500 or fewer hospitalizations in Los Angeles County for seven consecutive days, face coverings will no longer be required at these events.

Operators will still be required to verify the full vaccination status or pre-entry negative COVID-19 viral testing for all attendees.

“We have learned a lot since the virus first emerged in Long Beach in March of 2020,” City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis said in a statement. “The omicron surge necessitated stricter guidelines for mega events and masking, but even though it was our largest surge to date, we were able to weather it, in large part because people were vaccinated, boosted and wore their face coverings. As we move into year three of the pandemic, we will continue to do everything we can to maintain normality while protecting lives.”

City News Service contributed to this report.