As California prepares for its mandate for indoor mask expires this weekschool environments will still require them, at least for the next few weeks.
State Secretary for Health and Human Services, Dr. Mark Ghaly, said during a virtual press conference on Monday that California will reconsider its masking guide for K-12 public schools on February 28th. Changes will not come down to a single indicator, he said, but a composite look at COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and vaccination rates.
An expiration date for masks in schools could be announced on 28 February.
“It will definitely take some time for schools, leaders and public health leaders across the state to prepare, for families to prepare,” Ghaly said. “It’s not a decision that happens over the next day or the next few days, but certainly something that we will share clearly and set a timetable if we see the information that we hope and honestly expect to see it. 28 .. “
California’s mask mandate for indoor public spaces expires after Tuesday, but Ghaly said many times during the conference that masks are still a “strong recommendation.”
Unvaccinated persons are still required to wear masks and are required in certain environments, such as health facilities and public transportation, regardless of vaccination status.
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Transmission levels in Ventura County continue to fall sharply, but remain high compared to pre-increase rates driven by the omicron variant. State data on Monday showed an infection rate of an average of 47 cases per day per. 100,000 people in the county compared to a peak in January of 294 cases a day.
In Ventura County, the masking rule in schools has ignited debate with supporters who claim that masks protect students and teachers, while opponents claim that the coatings disrupt learning and create anxiety in students.
Ventura County Superintendent of Schools César Morales said Monday that the mandate in schools should be removed Wednesday when masking requirements indoors in most public places are set to be removed by the state and Ventura County Public Health.
“With declining COVID-19 case numbers and the fact that schools are among the safest places in our society, I believe the mask mandate should be lifted in schools at the same time,” Morales said in a written statement. “Even after masks have become optional, anyone who wants to continue using them should feel comfortable doing so.”
Dr. Robert Levin, a health worker in Ventura County, said the decision to remove the mandate is in the hands of the state, noting that the county cannot adopt its own more lenient rules.
Levin said it was time to consider pushing the boundaries of restrictions and returning closer to pre-pandemic norms, but also urged individual groups and organizations not to defy mask mandates and other demands on their own.
“Let’s talk about it and move things forward together,” he said.
Teachers and other school staff are divided over masking in schools, said Dan Nelson, president of the Ventura Unified Education Association, which represents 802 school workers.
About 25% of employees feel vulnerable and want mask mandates to remain. Another 25% are tired of masks and the balance is somewhere in the middle, Nelson said.
“I think three-quarters will be fine with the two weeks to reconsider. I think a quarter of those who want the masks off right now,” he said.
Ventura County Supervisor Kelly Long supports the removal of the mandate and makes masks optional in schools. She said the coatings create an educational barrier for some students.
“We really need to make sure they can learn the best they can,” she said.
Super Bowl took place in Los Angeles on Sunday, and among thousands of participants, few were seen wearing masks, despite the mandate in the state and Los Angeles County. Asked what he has to say to “outraged parents” who saw maskless participants and whose children still can not throw their masks in schools, Ghaly said he understands the frustration and hopes the message is clear that a change will be coming soon.
“It takes time to prepare and work with the school community and the communities as a whole that we expect to make the change by then,” Ghaly said. “That change will be one that I think will be met with a lot of excitement in some, and a lot of fear in other circles.”
Ema Sasic covers health in the Coachella Valley. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @ema_sasic.