LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Marking another milestone in the pandemic, Los Angeles County and the state have officially lifted the requirement that attendees at indoor mega-events such as sporting events or concerts show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test.
It's the latest pandemic-era mandate to be lifted, following the recent scrapping of rules requiring people to wear masks indoors at most locations. Masks are also no longer required at outdoor mega-events or on school campuses.
The Los Angeles City Council agreed this week to drop its requirement that people show proof of vaccination to enter many indoor businesses.
Health officials have noted, however, that private businesses are entitled to enact their own virus-control measures if they desire, such as requiring masks or checking for vaccinations or negative tests.
Mask-wearing, while no longer mandated in most settings, is still strongly recommended by health officials. Masks also remain mandatory in select locations, such as health-care settings, aboard public transit and airplanes and in airports and transit centers.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer noted Thursday that whenever major public-health mandates are lifted, there tends to be an uptick in COVID infections as more people interact. She said that is being seen again now locally, with the county's weeks-long decline in COVID case numbers suddenly leveling off this week.
The county on Friday reported 1,167 new COVID infections, notably higher than the 784 reported on Thursday. Since the pandemic began, the county has recorded a cumulative total of 2,834,317 infections.
But while case numbers have stopped their decline, hospitalizations of COVID-19-positive people are still falling -- with health officials crediting widespread vaccinations for preventing patients from falling seriously ill from infections.
On Friday, the number of COVID-positive patients in Los Angeles County hospitals fell below the 300 mark for the first time since early July 2021, reaching 287, down from 308 a day earlier. The number of those patients being treated in intensive care was 47 as of Friday, the same as Thursday.
Another 16 virus-related deaths were reported Friday, raising the county's overall death toll to 31,683.
Ferrer said Thursday the highly infections BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 was increasing its influence in the county, representing 32% of cases that underwent specialized laboratory sequencing to identify strains of the virus for the week ending March 12. That was nearly double the rate from the previous week.
BA.2 has been driving up infection numbers in nations around the world, most notably Australia and parts of Europe.
Ferrer said the strain -- an offshoot of the Omicron variant that sparked the winter surge in cases -- likely accounts for an even higher percentage of cases locally, since the most recent figures were two weeks old. But she again stressed that the spread of BA.2 has not led to a rise in hospitalizations.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.9% as of Friday, down from 1.1% on Thursday.