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Surgeon general: Renewed mask mandates in L.A. County, elsewhere 'very reasonable'

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Sunday that it is very reasonable for officials in Los Angeles County and other localities that see fit to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions amid rising cases. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Sunday that it is "very reasonable" for officials in Los Angeles County and other localities that see fit to reinstate COVID-19 restrictions amid rising cases. Photo by Samuel Corum/UPI | License Photo

July 18 (UPI) -- Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday said it was "very reasonable" for local officials to reestablish COVID-19 restrictions as cases are on the rise throughout the United States.

Appearing on ABC News' This Week, Murthy acknowledged that the United States is seeing an increase in cases "particularly among the unvaccinated in many parts of the country" as Los Angeles County reinstated indoor mask mandates beginning Sunday.

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"In areas where there are low numbers of vaccinated people, where cases are rising, it's very reasonable for countries to take more mitigation measures, like the mask rules coming out of L.A.," Murthy said. "And I anticipate that will happen in other parts of the country -- and that's not contradictory to the guidance the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] issued."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in May issued guidance that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear face coverings in public -- except on transit, in health care facilities and other crowded areas or where local mandates require them -- however Los Angeles County on Thursday announced it would require that all residents wear masks while indoors, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against the virus.

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County health officials reported an average of 1,077 new cases per day for a weeklong ahead of the announcement, and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis told ABC News the measure was meant to prevent further spread as the county works to vaccinate more of its residents.

"We still have 4 million people out of 10 million that haven't been vaccinated -- and many of them are young people," Solis said. "And we're seeing that this transmission is so highly contagious that it will cost more in the long run."

Throughout the United States, 68.2% of people 18 and older have received at least one vaccine dose while 161,232,483 people, or 48.6% of the total U.S. population, are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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The United States continues to lead the world in total cases and deaths with 34,073,372 infections and 609,001 fatalities since the start of the pandemic, adding 12,960 cases and 69 deaths nationwide on Saturday, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. A majority of states didn't report data Saturday.

Johns Hopkins data also showed that cases were on the rise in all 50 states as the more infectious Delta variant becomes more prominent. In one week nationally, cases are up 69%, deaths 26% and hospital admissions 36%, according to the CDC.

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Murthy said he was "deeply concerned" about the state of vaccinations in the United States.

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"We've made so much progress over this past year, but what I worry about are those that we still have -- millions of people in our country who are not vaccinated," he said.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, Murthy said he has "been in dialogue with a number of technology companies in good faith efforts" after issuing an advisory on Thursday that COVID-19 misinformation, particularly on social media and elsewhere online, is "a public threat."

"This is about the health of Americans and the reality is that misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country, aided and abetted by technology platforms," he said.

Murthy's comments came after President Joe Biden said platforms such as Facebook are "killing people" by allowing misinformation to spread, prompting the social media giant to respond that "Facebook is helping save lives" by providing tools to help Americans locate vaccines.

The surgeon general said Sunday that the government has a role in addressing misinformation and "investing in research" to learn how it's affecting Americans while acknowledging that platforms such as Facebook may have good intentions but can still fail to properly combat misinformation.

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"Intention is good, but at the end of the day it doesn't save the life of somebody who is misled by misinformation on these sites, who didn't get vaccinated, who got sick and lost their life as a result," Murthy said. "I'm asking these companies to step up and take responsibility for what's happening on their side. I'm asking them to look out for the people across this country whose lives depend on having access to accurate information."

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