A county in Northern California has reinstated a mask mandate after hitting a high community level for COVID-19, and Los Angeles County could do the same by the end of the month.

Alameda County in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Oakland is located, issued a mask mandate Friday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved it and a dozen other California counties into the highest level for the virus as measured by case counts as well as hospital admissions and capacity.

So far, the California counties that have reached the level at which the CDC recommends universal masking are all in the Bay Area, Sacramento Valley and the northern part of the state and account for almost 1 in 6 of all Californians, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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But Los Angeles County may not be far behind.

“Our weekly case rate and the rate of increase in hospital admissions are of concern,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday, the newspaper reported, citing an 18% increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations there over the previous week.

Ferrer warned that if the county continues “on the current trajectory … we’re likely to move into the CDC high community level within a few weeks towards the end of June, indicating increased stress on the health care system.”

Currently, Los Angeles County and other Southern California coastal counties including San Diego and Orange, home to Disneyland, are at the CDC’s medium community level — just like Utah’s Salt Lake, Summit and Grand counties were after last Thursday’s weekly update by the Utah Department of Health.

At a medium community level for the virus, the CDC advises those at high risk for a severe case of COVID-19 to consult with their health care providers about whether they need to wear masks and take other precautions, including testing. Anyone living or spending time with people at high risk also may want to mask up and test.

The CDC also suggests those in a medium-risk county should try to maintain improved ventilation throughout both private and public indoor spaces. They should also stay up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccination, including booster shots now available to everyone 5 and older.

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Unlike California, mask mandates are unlikely in Utah.

Utah lawmakers, who have limited the power of state and local public health agencies, ended a statewide mask mandate in 2021 and overturned efforts to require face coverings in Salt Lake and Summit counties earlier this year during the record-breaking surge driven by the omicron variant of the virus.

In Alameda County, California, the Los Angeles Times reported masks must be worn at indoor businesses and workplaces, including offices, stores, theaters and conference centers, as well as restaurants and bars when not eating or drinking; on public transportation, including taxis and ride shares; and at Oakland International Airport.

Masks are not being required for the final days of the school year in Alameda County; however, they are mandated in Berkeley’s K-12 school system, and Sacramento schools have also taken action, the newspaper said. UCLA and some other campuses are mandating masks, too.

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