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As clock strikes midnight, Los Angeles reinstates masks – sort of

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Face mask signage is displayed outside the Trunks bar after midnight early Sunday morning on July 18, 2021 in West Hollywood, California./AFP
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Jul 19, 2021 - 07:46 AM

LOS ANGELES — In a West Hollywood nightclub, people flirted, danced, and got close — all mostly unmasked — despite the fact that on Sunday at midnight, Los Angeles became the first US city to order a return to masks indoors.

At Revolver, a bar blasting out Madonna’s best hits, clubbers were warned in the queue — no mask, no entry.

The ultimatum sent one young man, David, scrambling to the nearest supermarket to buy one so as to not miss precious dancing time.

But once inside the venue, despite rising Covid infection rates, it was a different story.

“I feel a little out of place,” said 22-year-old Ashley Gutierrrez, one of the few wearing a mask.

Many of those that AFP spoke to on the dancefloor espoused a similar view — with so many coronavirus vaccine doses available, why should those who have already been inoculated have to suffer because of those who aren’t?

“If you’re refusing to get the vaccine, that’s on you now,” said Stephen Bennett, 21.

Anthony Bawn, a 36-year-old screenwriter, agreed.

“Why should we feel responsible for individuals who don’t want to protect their own body?” he asked. “If they force me to (wear a mask), I’m going to go home.”

‘Not my problem’ 

For Los Angeles authorities, who announced the return to mandatory mask wearing in the middle of the week, there’s a delicate balance to strike — the city has only really reopened in the last few weeks, and no-one wants to spoil the party.

But thanks to the Delta variant, Covid-19 cases are the highest they’ve been since March, and the United States has not yet introduced any form of vaccine passport.

Many have chafed at the mask reintroduction, however.

The Los Angeles county sheriff’s office has already announced that it will not enforce the new mandate, which according to the sheriff, is not based on science.

“It’s going to be hard to enforce,” said Ruben, manager of Trunks bar. “There’s nothing we can do.”

“I’m not going to shove them on people’s faces,” sighed another bar manager.

As midnight struck at Micky’s, a worker tapped on his watch and hurriedly distributed masks to the establishment’s dancers.

The barmen hesitated, before masking up themselves — but on the dancefloor, nothing much changed.

Leo Johnson had his mask in his pocket.

“I’m vaccinated,” he said. “I have my mask in my pocket… I will not wear my mask if they don’t ask me to.”

It was, he pointed out, difficult to chat people up with half your face covered — a position shared by Adrian Barrios, 26.

“In a bar setting, so much of your communication is through your smile and body language,” he said. “A lot of that is inhibited through masks.”

For 26-year-old Krista, however, the solution was to lean in: resplendent in a rhinestoned mask, she chose to protect herself, but do it in style.

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