The COVID-19 virus continues to spread, especially to those who are not fully vaccinated. The more contagious Delta variant is now widespread in LA County.
The following information is to help people understand who is most at risk of getting infected and sick, which situations are riskier, and what steps they can take to stay safe and slow the spread of COVID-19.
To learn about the rules that must be followed in public settings, including when you need to wear a mask or show proof of vaccination or a negative test, visit the COVID-19 Prevention in Public Settings webpage
People who are not vaccinated are at the highest risk of getting infected with COVID-19. This includes people who have not completed their Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series (i.e., they only got the first dose) as well as children under age 12 who are too young to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated adults who are older or who have certain medical conditions are at highest risk of severe COVID-19 disease.
People with severely weakened immune systems who are fully vaccinated might not respond as well to the vaccine so may still be at increased risk of COVID-19. This includes people with certain health conditions or who are taking certain medications (such as treatment for cancer, organ transplants or autoimmune conditions).
Fully vaccinated persons are at lowest risk of getting infected with COVID-19. They are well protected from getting very sick and dying from COVID-19. A small percent of people who are fully vaccinated are getting infected with the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. These “breakthrough infections” are expected even with highly effective vaccines. Importantly, breakthrough infections usually cause mild symptoms, if any. It is possible for fully vaccinated people to spread the virus to other people.
Understanding how the COVID-19 virus is spread is important. It will help you to assess your risk and take steps to protect yourself in different situations.
The virus spreads from person to person mainly through respiratory droplets that are released into the air by a person who has COVID-19. For example, when they speak, sing, cough, shout, sneeze, or breathe heavily. These droplets are then breathed in by other people or land on their eyes, nose, or mouth. A person’s risk of getting infected goes up the closer they are to someone with COVID-19. Enclosed places with poor air flow can also increase the risk of getting infected. This is because the droplets that have the virus can concentrate and spread in the air past 6 feet. They can even stay floating in the air after an infected person has left the room.
This is why masks are important. They lower the number of respiratory droplets people release into the air AND also the number that they breathe in.
It is also possible, but less common, for the virus to spread by touching a surface with droplets on it and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
There are certain places where COVID-19 spreads more easily
Vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19. It will slow the spread of COVID-19 including variants of the virus. And it will also help lower the chances of new and more dangerous variants emerging.
Your mask should fit snugly over your nose and mouth and be made of at least two layers so that they filter well. If you are in a setting where you are in sustained close contact with other people who may not be fully vaccinated, consider “double masking” (wearing a cloth face mask over surgical mask) or an N95 respirator. These offer a higher level of protection. This is especially important if you are not fully vaccinated and are indoors or in a crowded outdoor place.
Masks are now required in all indoor public settings, venues, gatherings, public and private businesses, and at outdoor Mega Events (events with over 10,000 attendees like concerts, sports games and parades) in Los Angeles County. Some exceptions apply - see the revised Health Officer Order and information below.
EVERYONE*, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask:
Note: You are allowed to take off your mask while you are:
*There are some people who should not wear a mask, such as children younger than 2, people with certain medical conditions or disabilities, and people instructed by their medical provider not to wear a mask. Children ages 2 to 8 should wear a mask only when under adult supervision. See Who should not wear a mask and Special considerations for persons with communication difficulties or certain disabilities.
*In the workplace, workers must follow the most protective mask requirements as stated by Cal/OSHA and the County Health Officer Order. Certain employees may be exempt from wearing a mask in specific situations provided alternative safety measures are in place. See the Health Officer Order and Best Practices for Businesses webpage for details of workplace requirements.
Learn more about masks at ph.lacounty.gov/masks.