In the first COVID-19 update since the Delta variant became the dominant strain of the virus worldwide, the city’s public health director told the Pasadena City Council that she is working on guidelines that would require local residents to wear masks indoors no matter their vaccination status.
“What we are trying to do is utilize pharmaceutical interventions that work,” said Dr. Ying-Ying Goh.
Those options include masking and social distancing.
Goh said right now the city is not leaning towards options that would require closing businesses.
“We would like to take the small and hopefully effective steps that could keep businesses open and require a mask no matter the vaccination status,” Goh said.
The mask mandate could go into effect later this week.
According to Dr. Goh, multiple unconnected households are now infected with the more contagious and dangerous Delta variant.
Goh told the City Council that the top option in the fight against the virus is the current vaccines.
Currently 80% of the city’s residents 12 years old and older have been vaccinated. The City has one of the highest vaccination rates in the state.
Several council members resisted idea of a mask mandate and briefly floated the idea of a vote on the mask mandate, but according to the City Attorney, the decision is not a legislative decision that can be made by policy makers.
“The council does not have that authority or role,” said City Attorney Michele Bagneris.
Goh said the city is treading in new territory.
“We are not trying to change the rules and sow confusion. The rules are changing on us,” said Goh. “This is the first surge with the variant, so I cannot predict it. We are in a different place because we don’t have 100 percent potential population for infection, but we have reopened. All of these variables make this hard to predict.”
According to scientists, unvaccinated people could increase the possibility of more variants. The variants have the potential to be more deadly than the current variant.
“Each person who gets vaccinated is slowing the development of new variants,” Goh said. “Studies show that vaccines protect against the virus, including the variant.”
The Delta variant spreads more easily between people, and some research shows that people transmit the virus to others sooner than people spread the original strain of the novel coronavirus.
Goh said she is watching the numbers at Huntington Hospital.
“If you are not vaccinated please go out and get your family and yourself vaccinated,” said Mayor Victor Gordo. “We don’t live in a vacuum. We live in a region where people travel in and out every day.”
Gordo called for clarity in the order and a call for consistency in the region for local operators, and said that Goh should be prepared to answer some hard questions including a point and time when vaccinations become mandatory.
“First and foremost, we are all better protected when we are all vaccinated,” Gordo said. “The vaccine works, and we are working to raise our 80% vaccination rate to 100%. Despite our high vaccination rate, we are not an island, and what happens in the region affects us. Due to the significant increase in case rates during the past three weeks, our Health Officer, Dr. Goh, is preparing a Health Order that will go into effect in the next 48-72 hours requiring face masks when indoors in public settings and businesses, regardless of vaccination status. While Pasadena’s case rates were lower than LA County’s our weekend rates continued to climb. I urge the public to get vaccinated — vaccines are safe, effective, widely available in Pasadena, and free.”
Masking works to reduce transmission indoors according to Goh.
This past weekend, the local public health officials reported 51 COVID-19 infections in the city between Saturday and Monday, but no additional deaths.
Twenty-one cases were detected on Saturday, followed by 15 on both Sunday and Monday.
In total, Pasadena has seen 11,558 cases of COVID-19 and 351 deaths, with the most recent fatality in the city reported on July 12, according to Pasadena Public Health Department records.
On average, Pasadena has recorded 14.4 new infections each day over the past week.
On Saturday, a new face-covering mandate went into effect in
Los Angeles County amid a resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic that has seen local case rates and hospitalizations skyrocket.
The new rule requiring everyone to wear masks in indoor public spaces regardless of their vaccination status went into effect at 11:59 p.m Saturday.
“We don’t take any of this lightly,” Goh said.