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COVID exposes need for LGBTQ data and compassionate cultural competency

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The sun is out, an early summer beckons and if not for the masks and gloves and deserted streets in once-popular ghost towns, restless Californians may not know that a silent highly contagious plague is sweeping the land. Even more silent is the ignored erasure of the LGBTQ community.

From the start of what is now a global pandemic threatening a worldwide economic depression, the federal government has been churning out mixed messages and lies and blatantly continuing its ruthless destruction of LGBTQ rights.

“The Trump administration is moving to scrap an Obama-era policy that protected LGBTQ patients from discrimination, alarming health experts who warn that the regulatory rollback could harm vulnerable people during a pandemic,” Politico reported April 24, referring to an ObamaCare provision that prohibits healthcare discrimination based on sex and gender identity. Vox reports that the new rule could go into effect in the middle of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as if fear of the virus was not enough, the LGBTQ community is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A negative ruling could jeopardize LGBTQ rights in employment, education, healthcare and housing and dramatically erode the road to full equality.

Additionally, LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS non-profits that provide essential, culturally competent safety nets are facing what out California State Sen. Scott Wiener described during an April 21 virtual Equality California town hall as a “mass extinction.” Most are frantically fundraising for survival and adjusting to continue service, while still clamoring for data.

On April 29, for instance, the Human Rights Campaign laid off 22 staffers.

“COVID-19 is affecting the nation and no industry or workplace is free from its impact,” Interim HRC Communications Director Nick Morrow told the Blade in a statement. “For us, the economic reality is that because of the cancellation of events that represent critical funding streams, the decline of our economy, and our ineligibility for any federal funding, we could not make up this shortfall without impossibly difficult decisions.”

On April 26, GLAAD held a live-streamed celebrity-filled fundraiser entitled “Together in Pride: You Are Not Alone” for CenterLink.  The event raised more than $230,000 with funds still coming in; $150,000 was gifted by the Ariadne Getty Foundation, GLAAD’s largest donor, the LA Blade reported; 10% of the funds will go to GLAAD to cover administrative costs for producing the event, says GLAAD’s Rich Ferraro. The remaining funds will be divided equally among the 185 centers that participated, says Interim CenterLink CEO Denise Spivak.

But no one from the Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco LGBTQ centers was on the list of nonprofit leaders compiled by the California Association of Nonprofits for a March 21 “urgent request” letter (updated April 15) to Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of the California Legislature “for support of California’s nonprofits during COVID-19 crisis.”

“Government relies on nonprofits to provide 32 percent of Medi-Cal services, one example of nonprofits delivering services for government. California nonprofits rely on government funding for 30 percent of the sector’s total revenue. As California’s nonprofits step up, we count on the government to step with us,” wrote the Association’s Jennifer Fearing.

One month later, Newsom announced the Californians For All Service initiative “to connect Californians with safe volunteer opportunities and encourage those unable to physically volunteer to think creatively about ways to make a difference in their communities.”

“Whether it’s volunteering at a food bank to feed older Californians, blood drives or supporting local nonprofits, there’s no shortage of opportunities for Californians to step up and meet the moment,” Newsom said.

But while a good and useful idea,  CaliforniansForAll.ca.gov lacks the cultural competency LGBTQ people are craving. For instance, in the section about donating blood, there is no asterisk warning that LGBTQ are not allowed to donate blood. So, if a young closeted Marine is peer-pressured into donating blood at one of many designated military spots, he may either be outed or embarrassed or have to lie during the screening process.

And in the Non-Profit section, none of the SoCal organizations vetted by Philanthropy CA are LGBTQ.

If Gov. Newsom and other public and elected officials uttered this minority’s name — “LGBTQ” — would that help? Only seven LGBT-related organizations were on the California Association of Nonprofits’ list of 1,066 nonprofit leaders. APLA Health and AIDS Legal Referral Panel represented people living with HIV.

“Under a public health emergency like COVID-19, over the past month we have seen a significant drop-off in people’s ability to stay connected to us because we’re not allowed to provide the wraparound services that have made us successful,” Cyndee Clay, the executive director at HIPS, a needle exchange center in Washington, D.C., told ABC News. “Under these circumstances, it’s frustrating and it means people are going to die. And that’s a really heavy thing to think about.”

The trans community is virtually invisible. Bamby Salcedo and Michaé De La Cuadra of [email protected] Coalition pointed out in letters to LGBT funders and elected officials that “people who could once support themselves have become homeless and are not able to make enough money to pay for rent or buy food. Many members of our community who work in service industries like beauty salons and sex work are forced further into poverty.”

“As trans people we are the ones who get the short end of the stick when it comes to getting support in general,” Salcedo tells the LA Blade.  “The reality is – we, as trans people are regularly at the bottom of everything. And in this case, even the access to healthcare. We are not a priority.”

Though the California COVID-19 website has resource “guidance” for seniors and teens experiencing trauma, the ACLU of Northern California spells out the ignored bigger picture.

LGBTQ people, “particularly those who are transgender, gender non-conforming or intersex (‘TGI’), have experienced systemic bias and discrimination that increase susceptibility to severe harm from COVID-19 and warrant data collection to assess the specific effects of the pandemic on LGBTQ Californians,” the ACLU/NorCal wrote in a detailed letter to Newsom on April 21. “Societal marginalization, family rejection, and implicit as well as overt bias cause LGBTQ people to experience higher levels of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other mental health problems, as well as suicidality, self-harm, and substance abuse, beginning in adolescence. These patterns may result in LGBTQ people being less likely to seek, or to successfully obtain, testing and treatment for COVID-19 symptoms.”

Additionally, says the ACLU, “LGBTQ people also suffer the cumulative impacts of longstanding difficulty accessing appropriate health care. Many LGBTQ people have experienced outright denial of care based on their identity, discriminatory treatment or harassment, or lack of cultural competence on the part of a health care provider to whom they turned for diagnosis and treatment. Some religiously-affiliated health care institutions maintain policies or practices of outright discrimination against LGBTQ people. Community anxiety about these issues and how they may compound the effects of the COVID-19 crisis has intensified in response to the involvement of Samaritan’s Purse, a religiously-affiliated group that maintains an overt policy of excluding volunteers who identify as LGBTQ, in New York City’s pandemic response.”

LGBTQ people “are also disproportionately affected by physical health conditions that likely increase their susceptibility to harm from COVID-19,” which the letter details. “It is important to collect data on both sexual orientation and gender identity in order to understand the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on LGBTQ Californians and to tailor existing and future policies and programs to the needs of TGI and LGBTQ communities where appropriate.”

There have been many attempts to get Newsom’s attention, including Twitter and Facebook appeals by the [email protected] Coalition. Wiener and Assemblymember Todd Gloria, representing the LGBT Legislative Caucus, as well as Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur and others have sent letters to Newsom and leadership urging urgent help – to which there has been no reply.

“The LGBTQ community is being badly harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet our community is either being ignored in the pandemic response or actively harmed. We just learned what we already suspected: that LGBTQ people are being disproportionately damaged by layoffs and other pandemic-caused economic harms,” Wiener said in his statement.

“And we know that LGBTQ people are at heightened risk for serious COVID-19 symptoms, due to higher rates of HIV, cancer, smoking, and homelessness,” Wiener continued.

“Yet, despite those facts, the Trump administration is proposing to make it legal for healthcare providers to refuse to treat LGBTQ people. Neither the federal government nor state government is collecting data on the pandemic’s impacts on the LGBTQ community. And, in general, our community is being ignored,” he said. “As we move through this pandemic, we need to ensure that the LGBTQ community – and all marginalized communities – are receiving the focus and resources they need to survive and thrive.”

Perhaps because of the timing of Wiener’s statement, the LA Blade was called upon to ask a question during Newsom’s news conference.

Newsom seemed annoyed, as if asking the question implied that Newsom, a longstanding  LGBTQ ally, was deserting the community.

“We’re making sure that we’re breaking down data – it’s very important to me,” Newsom said. “For the life of me — I hope people aren’t accusing — even my friends in the Legislature… of not having deep sensitivity and deep compassion and concern for the unique needs of the LGBTQ community.”

“It’s been a big cause of my life,” Newsom continued. “And a big reason I’m able to answer the ‘why’ question: Why am I even interested in public service? It’s one of the reasons I care deeply, because I care about all communities that have been impacted and oppressed and are disproportionally struggling because of race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.”

Newsom turned the question over to Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the California Department of Public Health, “who’s also made this the cause of her life and she can perhaps talk a little bit more specifically about what our data collection does look like and what it will look like as we march forward into the future,” Newsom said.

Angell thanked the LA Blade for “that very important question. Absolutely — inequities or lack of access to care across the spectrum of our populations is of primary concern, particularly in the face of COVID-19. Our LGBTQ community also deserves and needs to have that data to understand and for our communities to be able to act and respond accordingly,” she said.

“This data can be difficult to collect through our current standard mechanisms of reporting because this is information that is not necessarily reported regularly – very much like the data we’re collecting around race and ethnicity. These are things we’re looking very carefully at and looking at ways of improving our system so we can get this information into the hands of people who can take action on it – ourselves and our local county authorities, as well. So, we’ll be reporting back to you for methods that we’re coming up with that – and again thank you for your question.  This is incredibly important to ourselves as an administration and as a state.”

But being nice is not an answer.

“The LGBTQ+ community is facing a perfect storm of the worst health, economic, social impacts” of the COVID-19 crisis, Zbur told the Blade. “At the same time, the social safety net that we built for ourselves during the AIDS crisis is at risk of failing due to lack of funding. To be clear, that would be catastrophic. Unfortunately, neither the federal government nor the state appear to be gathering data on the impact of this crisis on LGBTQ+ people, and we are concerned that our community will be left out of the programs developed to address the crisis.”

“We are fortunate,” Zbur continued, “that Governor Newsom has been one of our staunchest allies throughout his career, and we have asked him to ensure that the state gathers the necessary data and provides targeted relief to LGBTQ+ people and the nonprofit organizations that serve our community.”

But four days later, Angell failed to even reference the LGBTQ community in an interview with the New York Times.

“Every number represents a person, so every number is something we worry about,” Angell told The Time’s Jill Cowan for her April 28 California newsletter. “But we particularly worry when we see trends, which tell us something, at a systems level, is happening. So, by understanding those trends, we see an opportunity to address inequity.”

But how can public health officials determine if there is an LGBTQ trend without collecting LGBTQ data or doing culturally competent contact tracing?

Meanwhile, Angell is right: every number represents a person, a human being whose life has been impacted or cut short. As of April 30, there count had reached more than 62,000 dead in America. How many were members of the LGBTQ community?

A source at the LA County Coroner’s office says LGBTQ data can be collected after death through contacts with survivors, such as family. But, as the AIDS crisis underscored, sometimes families are not the best sources of information, fearing societal shame and stigma associated with being LGBTQ or of being outed as undocumented.

[email protected] Coalition founder Bamby Salcedo’s friend Lorena Borjas died of COVID-19 and there was not only a national community prayer for her, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo included her among those he honored during his daily briefing.

However, the stigma of both the virus and gender identity has caused friends to adhere to family wishes and not identify the loved one upon death.

“I know of at least one trans Latina who recently died of COVID-19. In fact, we just had a virtual meeting last Saturday night for her. I met her about 20 years ago when I was working at Bienestar. She was such a beautiful person with a beautiful soul. Every time she would come to our groups, she always had a beautiful smile that would brighten the whole room. She was very much loved by all of us here and all of the Trans Latina local community. Losing her is a total devastation to our community, particularly those who were closest to her,” Salcedo tells the Blade.

“Unfortunately, the family does not want me to put her name out there. I think it’s the stigma, the shame that comes with this pandemic, too. I know there are more.”

If her death is even noted, she will fall into the state category of “Latino” or “Other.”

Scott Blanks’ story seemed something of a mystery, too.

Eleven days after Blanks died, the LA Times published a lovely remembrance of him with the headline: “He was the life of the dance floor, until coronavirus took him down.”

“Scott Blanks seemed to be able to tackle anything in life with good humor. More often than not, he put his worries on the back burner and focused instead on the good things in life, dancing many nights away with a seemingly endless circle of friends,” wrote The Times. “But on March 18, Blanks let out a rare cry for support” suffering from COVID-19.

“From the hospital, the morning before he would be placed on a ventilator, he posted on Facebook: ‘These [past] two weeks I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy! Keep me in your prayers please! It’s already been a really bumpy ride!’” wrote Times reporter Alejandra Reyes-Velarde. “Blanks, a 34-year-old dental assistant from Whittier, died on March 27 from COVID-19.”

Nowhere does the story say Blanks was gay, though clues abound.

“Jessie Funes-Macdonald cried when she heard dance music, thinking about “the times they had gone dancing at West Hollywood clubs as Pasadena City College students. He was a good dancer. He loved to sing, and he especially loved Beyoncé, Funes-Macdonald said,” The Times reported.

In college, Blanks was “involved in academic fraternities, leadership groups and LGBTQ clubs.”

On April 25, the LA Times posited Blanks as “the face” of young blacks and Latinos dying of COVID-19. “Black and Latino Californians ages 18 to 64 are dying more frequently of COVID-19 than their white and Asian counterparts relative to their share of the population, a Times analysis of state health department data shows,” reads the opening line.

“None of us knew what the numbers would look like. But we know that this is going to disproportionately affect communities that have fewer resources, have higher rates of underlying disease,” Angell told The Times.  “That’s the reality of inequities in our country. It’s something that we’re working very hard to address. It’s not acceptable. It’s not just.”

LGBTQ inequities, however, do seem acceptable — except to those who’ve lost someone they love like Jessie Marlene Funes-Macdonald.

“I love Scott very much and his life ended too soon,” Funes-Macdonald told the LA Blade, confirming that Blanks was a “genuine, beautiful gay black man who loved to dance” and “was always involved in being of service.”

Funes-Macdonald, who runs a non-profit called House of Pride & Equality in Santa Maria, is angry. Her friend Scott did not have to die.

“I strongly believe that everyone that has died is because the administration did not act sooner and ignored the seriousness of Covid-19,” says Funes-Macdonald, married to Audy Macdonald. “This administration could have saved lives. Instead my friend died and I have nothing but anger toward this administration.”

Funes-Macdonald says she’ll be establishing a scholarship in Scott Blanks’ honor. “It will be for LGBTQ+ youth who volunteer and do service for the community,” she says, modeling what her black gay friend Scott represented to the community. (For more information on the scholarship, please visit www.houseofprideandequality.org)

Luckily, LGBTQ people are still visible to each other.

Jeff Wacha told the story through Facebook posts of what happened to his beloved husband, Garry Bowie, the late executive director of Being Alive in West Hollywood. Bowie’s death was probably counted as a data point in the “White” category, those his life counted as way more than a statistic the his love, his pets, his friends, and his community.

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LA Public Health emphasizes vaccinations as pandemic guidelines relax

The County will also follow the State on lifting current travel restrictions on June 15 to align with CDC travel recommendations

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Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – On June 15, the state of California will be lifting most capacity limits and distancing restrictions at businesses, and Los Angeles County will align with the State in order to allow businesses to fully re-open. Specific requirements will continue for large capacity events, schools, day cares, day camps, high-risk congregant settings and health care facilities.

The County remains in the least restrictive yellow tier in the State’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy framework.

The County will also follow the State on lifting current travel restrictions on June 15 to align with CDC travel recommendations. Businesses must comply with all Cal/OSHA requirements at worksites past the June 15 reopening.

Tuesday, the State released the final blueprint tier numbers before the Blueprint for a Safer Economy program is retired next week; L.A. County’s adjusted case rate remains at 0.7 new cases per 100,000 people, and the overall test positivity rate remains at 0.4% across the county and in areas with the fewest health affirming resources.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health will host a Virtual Town Hall on Reopening on Thursday, June 10, at 6:00 p.m. Join the town hall to get the latest updates on the June 15 reopening of Los Angeles County. The town hall will be streamed live on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube @lapublichealth. For more information and to submit a question, visit: tinyurl.com/AskReopeningTownHall

Public Health confirmed 13 new deaths and 186 new cases of COVID-19. Of the 13 new deaths reported Tuesday, three people that passed away were over the age of 80, six people who died were between the ages of 65 and 79 and four people who died were between the ages of 50 and 64.

To date, Public Health identified 1,245,412 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 24,404 deaths. There are 232 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 16% of these people are in the ICU.

“As California reopens and most physical distancing requirements and capacity limits are lifted a week from today, it’s very important that those not vaccinated continue to take precautions,” said Barbara Ferrer, Director of Public Health.

“While we are making great progress with vaccinations in the County with 54% of L.A. County residents 16 and over fully vaccinated and 65 percent having received one dose of the vaccine, there are millions of residents who do not have protection from COVID-19. For those not yet vaccinated, and the over 1.3 million children under 12 years old, wearing a face covering remains important for preventing transmission.”

Free COVID-19 vaccines are available for everyone age 12 and older. You do not need to have health insurance and you will not be asked about your immigration status. Vaccines are offered at hundreds of locations across L.A. County. These include clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, places of worship, and mobile clinics. Many sites are open late and on weekends and no appointment needed at many locations.

To find a vaccination site near you, to make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more, visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish). If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment, connecting to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status.

With 12-17 year olds now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, providing accurate and important information to teens is critical. Public Health participated in a COVID Vaccine Teen Forum and helped answer some of the most popular questions from Los Angeles County teens themselves, ranging from vaccine safety to how they can talk to their parents about getting the vaccine. The forum can be seen at the following link: https://youtu.be/U7U5VnckkP0.

Through Thursday, June 10, everyone 18 and older coming to get their first vaccine or who brings a first-time vaccine recipient with them to their second dose appointment at County-run vaccination sites, L.A. City and St. John’s Well Child and Family Center sites, will have an opportunity to win a pair of season tickets to the 2021-2022 home season of either the LA Football Club soccer team or the LA Dodgers. Official rules and participating site locations can be found on the Los Angeles County Vaccination Sweepstakes page online.

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Newsom; “Vax for the Win” and LA sports teams also enter vax push

The incentives aim to give an extra nudge to those who still need to get vaccinated, especially in hard-to-reach communities

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California Governor Gavin Newsom appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live Thursday (Screenshot via YouTube)

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a multi-million dollar vaccine incentive program Thursday to motivate more people to get vaccinated leading up to June 15, when the state economy is slated to fully reopen. The $116.5 million vaccine incentive program is the largest in the nation to boost vaccinations as the state prepares to fully reopen the economy June 15.

The incentives aim to give an extra nudge to those who still need to get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially those in hard-to-reach communities, while also thanking everyone who has already been vaccinated.

More than 62.8 percent of Californians aged 12+ are at least partially vaccinated, but an estimated 12 million people who are eligible still have not gotten a vaccine to protect their health and the well-being of their communities.

“Getting every eligible Californian vaccinated is how we bring our state roaring back from this pandemic,” said the Governor. “California has already made incredible progress in the fight against COVID-19, with the lowest case rates in the country, while administering millions more vaccines than any other state. But we aren’t stopping there, we’re doing everything it takes to get Californians vaccinated as we approach June 15 to help us fully reopen safely.”

California residents who have been vaccinated are already entered for cash prizes, and those who haven’t been can get inoculated for the chance to receive a $50 card and win cash prizes. “You don’t have to register to do this as is the case in other states,” Newsom said. “You’re automatically registered.”

Beginning on May 27, the next two million people who begin and complete their COVID-19 vaccination will automatically be eligible to receive a $50 prepaid or grocery card, worth a total of $100 million. It gives them the option to select from a $50 Virtual Prepaid Card (which can be spent online, in-store where major debit cards are accepted, or added to a mobile wallet to be used to shop in stores that accept mobile wallets), or a $50 grocery gift card from Kroger (which includes Ralphs, Food 4 Less and Foods Co.) or Albertsons (which includes Safeway, Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions and Andronico’s Community Markets), while supplies last.

Californians will receive a text message with an electronic prepaid card redemption code sent to their mobile phone or email address 7-10 days after their two-dose series of Pfizer or Moderna, or single dose of Johnson and Johnson. An incentive card will be held for those who start their vaccination at the launch of the program.

Those who do not have a mobile phone or email address can receive a physical card by calling 1-833-993-3873, 7-10 days after receiving their final dose. Those without a permanent address can also call to coordinate delivery.

For more information, visit COVID19.ca.gov/vax-for-the-win. To schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, visit MyTurn.ca.gov or call the CA COVID-19 Hotline at 1-833-422-4255.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Launches Vaccination Sweepstakes with Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Galaxy

In Los Angeles County, starting tomorrow, Friday, May 28, two Los Angeles County residents 18 and older who get their first vaccine or bring a person needing their first vaccine to their second dose appointment can enter to win a pair (2) of 2021-22 season tickets to the Los Angeles Kings or 2022 season tickets to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

The vaccination sweepstakes will run from Friday, May 28 to Thursday, June 3. Two residents will be awarded prizes.

Residents can book appointments or walk in to County, LA City, and St. John’s Well Child and Family clinic vaccination sites to enter.

For more information, including official rules and participating site locations, residents can visit the Los Angeles County Vaccination Sweepstakes page at: www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/vaccine/sweepstakes.htm

Must be a Los Angeles County resident 18 years or older to enter.

Related: Jimmy Kimmel- ‘GOP Throws Out MyPillow Mike, Trump’s Crazy Memorial Day Message & Governor Gavin Newsom Sneaks In’

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CDC eases indoor mask guidance for fully vaccinated people

L.A. won’t immediately follow CDC’s relaxed mask rules

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CDC Headquarters in Atlanta, GA (Blade file photo)

WASHINGTON – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) issued new guidance Thursday that eases mask wearing indoors for fully vaccinated people in most instances except for extremely crowded circumstances.

The new guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated, the Associated Press reported.

“We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC.

President Joe Biden reflecting on the new CDC guidance that fully vaccinated people can go without masks said; “I think it’s a great milestone, a great day.” The President credited the full-court press by officials to get as many Americans vaccinated as possible in a short period of time as a contributing factor. Biden noted that as of Thursday, the U.S. has administered 250 million shots in 114 days.

He added, “The American people have never ever ever let their country down.”
Biden also stressed: “If you are fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear a mask.” and then he also said if you see someone wearing a mask, “please treat them with kindness and respect.”

Walensky announced the new guidance on Thursday afternoon at a White House briefing, crediting the change to millions of Americans who are getting vaccinated. She added that the CDC changes reflected on the latest science about how well the vaccines are working preventing further spread of the cornavirus.

“Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities -– large or small — without wearing a mask or physically distancing,” Walensky said. “If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic.”

There are some caveats the Associated Press noted pointing out the CDC Director encouraged people who have weak immune systems, such as from organ transplants or cancer treatment, to talk with their doctors before shedding their masks. That’s because of continued uncertainty about whether the vaccines can rev up a weakened immune system as well as they do normal, healthy ones.

Los Angeles County officials said Thursday the latest guidance from federal officials allowing fully vaccinated people to stop wearing masks in most places will not be effective in California immediately. The state and county will review the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations in order to “make sensible adjustments to the orders that are currently in place,” L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s mask-wearing requirements at businesses – including restaurants and supermarkets – remain in effect, and it could be a week or more before substantive changes to mask-wearing orders are implemented locally.

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