The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which has responsibility for the County’s more than 10 million residents, kicked off the new year with a brand new Health Officer Order on January 5, 2022. Among other changes, the new Health Officer Order imposes significant requirements on employers with respect to face coverings (effective January 17, 2022).

While Los Angeles County already had an indoor mask mandate, until now employers could allow their employees to wear both cloth and medical/surgical face coverings. However, under the new Health Officer Order, employers are not only required to provide medical-grade surgical masks or respirators (e.g., N95 or KN95 masks), but they also must ensure that these more protective face coverings are worn by all employees “who work indoors and in close contact with other workers or the public . . . at all times while indoors at the worksite or facility.”

As in the past, the nation’s most populous county may be the harbinger of changes to come elsewhere. With growing data indicating that cloth masks are less effective against new COVID-19 variants like Omicron, other jurisdictions soon may follow in Los Angeles’ footsteps.