Originally Published: 22 JUL 22 18:08 ET
By Alaa Elassar and Kacey Cherry, CNN
(CNN) -- Los Angeles County is maintaining a high Covid-19 community level, which means a universal indoor masking mandate could be enacted as soon as next week, health officials say.
In Los Angeles, the average test positivity rate remains high, at 16%, Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said during a Covid-19 update on Thursday. While daily reported cases have leveled off, with about 6,700 new cases daily, she said that the community level must decline back to 'medium' by July 28 to avoid an indoor mask requirement occurring on July 29.
In LA County, there is a continued rise in the number of Covid-positive patients admitted into hospitals over the past week, according to Ferrer. This increased from roughly 1,200 a week ago to 1,329 on Thursday.
Covid-related deaths in LA County remain relatively stable at 13 deaths per day on average, although this is an increase from last month, with an average of five daily deaths, Ferrer said.
The share of the United States population that lives in a county with a "high Covid-19 Community Level," where the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal indoor masking, has doubled over the past two weeks.
"We are on the cusp of medium and high. It isn't going to take much to move us back to medium level if we can get our case numbers to go lower," Ferrer said. "Should we start seeing a steep decline next week...we are likely to want to take a pause on moving too quickly on indoor masking, universal indoor masking."
Once the mask mandate is reinstated, it would take two weeks of a medium community transmission level for it to be removed, Ferrer has said in previous media briefings.
The mask mandate would require masks in all indoor spaces in LA County except for children 2 years old and under and those who are eating and drinking.
Covid-19 cases are increasing across the US once again, driven by the most contagious strain of the coronavirus yet, BA.5. More than 1 million people have died of Covid-19 across the country since the pandemic began.
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