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California School Mask Mandate Ends March 12

All students and staff, regardless of their vaccination status, will no longer be required to wear a mask inside schools and daycare centers from March 12.

Governor Gavin Newsom and California state health officials issued the order on Monday, nearly a month after lifting the mandate for vaccinated people to congregate in restaurants and other indoor spaces.

“I think masks should be optional tomorrow March 1,” said Megan Bacigalupi, an Oakland parent who leads the CA Parent Power group. “I don’t understand the rationale for a further delay of two additional weeks.”

The end of the mask mandate in schools comes almost exactly two years after the state first closed schools in many districts in March 2020. Parents and students across California demanded the action be taken sooner. A handful of California districts have already lifted their mask mandates.

“It seems like politics and the (California Teachers Association) are preventing my son from resuming a normal school year,” said Scott Davison, a San Diego County parent. “I’m frustrated. I should be happier, but we fought During months.”

But one recent survey found that 61% of parents of school-aged children support school mask mandates. Lisa Gardiner, spokesperson for the California Teachers Association, denied the accusation by some parents that teachers’ unions delayed lifting the mask mandate.

“The governor’s office has engaged all school stakeholders in the conversation around a safe transition for schools, leadership and the workforce,” Gardiner wrote in a text message Monday. “Our approach has always been science-based. Those trying to defame educators right now want it to be a matter of politics rather than safety and science.

Andrew Noymer, a public health professor at the University of California, Irvine, says it’s too early to lift the mask mandate, especially because it’s still unclear what thresholds the state hopes to reach by now. March 12.

“I can only say COVID rates are too high now,” he said. “But I am not in favor of a future in which children still go to school with masks.”

The state’s decision and timeline to make masks optional in schools comes just days after the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised federal guidelines on masking in schools. CDC experts said counties showing positive trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates do not require masks in most indoor spaces, including schools.

“I think California’s approach is smarter to treat schools differently because students have much lower vaccination rates right now than other demographics,” Noymer said.

In Monday’s announcement, state officials said local school districts will be able to have stricter masking rules than the state order.

San Diego Unified, the second-largest district in the state, will continue to enforce its indoor mask mandate, according to school board chairman Richard Barrera.

“San Diego County is still in the high-risk tier, even under the CDC’s new system,” Barrera said. “When we move to the moderate risk level, we will reassess.”

Districts like Oakland Unified and Los Angeles Unified required outdoor masking even after the state made the practice optional. Los Angeles got rid of its outdoor mask mandate last week. Officials from both districts have yet to respond to questions about how they will adjust their rules from March 12.

State officials also said Monday that the indoor mask mandate for unvaccinated adults will be lifted starting March 1.