Breanna Reeves | Staff Reporter
As one of the last states with mask requirements in place for students, California officials have decided to ease indoor mask policies in schools and childcare settings, moving from “requiring” students to wear masks indoors while on campus, to “recommending” masks in schools.
California, along with Oregon and Washington, announced they will be updating their masking guidance beginning at 11:59 p.m. on March 11. Governor released a statement regarding the update, explaining that California will continue to adjust guidelines based on the latest data and science available.
“Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high,” said Newsom. “We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward.”
On Monday, Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly of California Health and Human Services discussed the logic behind the state’s decision to relax the mask mandate in schools. The state monitored data trends over the last two weeks which allowed the health officials to make a decision regarding the mask mandate.
Over the last two weeks, California reported a 66% decrease in cases and case rates across the state and a 48% decrease in hospitalizations. Ghaly recognized that case rates differ across regions throughout the state, but as cases decline overall, the state will move away from requiring masks on school campuses to strongly recommending masks be worn.
According to Ghaly, health officials in the state “see ourselves getting lower and see less of community transmission.”
As of March 1 masks are also no longer required for unvaccinated individuals, but are strongly recommended for all individuals in most indoor settings, according to the California Department of Public Health. However, masks are still required for everyone in “high transmission” settings such as public transit, congregate facilities and jails.
What’s happening locally
While masks will no longer be required in school settings, the state is still reporting low vaccination rates among kids aged five to 11. Among this age group, 30% of children are fully vaccinated in the state. In San Bernardino County, 20% of children aged five to 11 are partially vaccinated and in Riverside County, 18.6% of that age group is fully vaccinated.
Riverside Unified School District released an update to parents regarding the revised guidance on masks and informed parents that they will be working with the public health department for further clarification before the new guidance goes into effect. San Bernardino City Unified School District asks that students continue to wear masks until further notice and advises parents and guardians to “stay tuned for more information.”
Dr. Jerry Abraham, director of Kedren Vaccines at Kedren Health in Los Angeles, has been working on the frontlines throughout the pandemic and explained that COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against the virus. He also explained that while California mandates are changing, masks still play an important role in protecting individuals.
“While mask mandates at the state level have been shifting, we know that wearing a mask is an important tool to stay safe. Regardless of what the mandates are in your county, I recommend a properly worn mask in indoor public spaces when social distancing is not possible,” Abraham wrote in an editorial shared via email. “Make mask-wearing and vaccination part of your tactics to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic.