SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — California is considering changing the way it manages masks in schools, it just won’t be announced until at least February 28.
With hospitalizations and new cases dropping, California seemed prepared to make a change in the state policy related to the future of school masking. Instead, California officials announced Monday no new guidance on masks in schools at this time. Officials promised to reassess the data and conditions on February 28 and consider future changes to statewide school masking.
During a COVID-19 update on the state’s approach to COVID-19, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health & Human Services Agency (CalHHS) Secretary, shared a slide during the presentation that confirmed there will be no changes to the school masking requirement made now. But that the state will reassess data and conditions (e.g., case rate, test positivity, hospitalizations, pediatric hospitalizations and vaccine rates) in two weeks.
Dr. Mark Ghaly said a lifting of the mandate is inevitable, saying it is just "a question of when." He expressed confidence that the mandate would be lifted after that Feb. 28 reassessment, barring another sudden spike in virus infection rates and hospitalizations.
"Parents should not hear that we aren't making a move," Ghaly said, insisting the state is only "taking a little more time" to ensure pandemic metrics continue on a downward path.
Dr. Ghaly also shared a slide that displayed some of the numbers tied to the mitigation strategies that California has used to keep schools open titled, "A winning formula: mitigation and outcomes this schoolyear".
Ghaly noted that even when the state lifts its requirement for masks in schools, individual counties or school districts could still require them.
Local School District leaders called on Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday to enact an endemic plan with real local control on masking and vaccination protocols for students and staff.
Andrew Hayes, leader, and organizer of "School Board Members for Local Control" along with several other school board members from across San Diego County will call on Governor Newsom Monday to include in his endemic plan:
- Real local control for mask protocols for students and staff in school settings.
- Use his authority under the California Emergency Services Act to end the State of Emergency in California.
- Oppose and veto any piece of legislation that removes personal belief exemptions for vaccinations for students and staff.
WATCH FULL UPDATE: CalHHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly Provides Update on COVID-19 in California on Feb 14, 2022:
Newsom said that the new approach will emphasize flexibility. It will still include quarantines and testing of those who don't show symptoms and other precautions. But those safeguards will vary based on what he said are more than a dozen "guideposts and measurements" designed to spot new surges and virus variants. Newsom said it will also include a continued emphasis on vaccinations and booster shots.
Meanwhile, the indoor mask mandate for California is set to expire on February 15 for vaccinated people. CBS 8 spoke to officials who say it's time to end the mandate and others who say, "not so fast."
David Miyashiro, Superintendent of El Cajon School District, says the changing guidelines and restrictions have hit his students, parents and teachers hard and it's time to go back to normal.
"It's been a challenging time but I think rekindling our relationships with each other, returning to a place where we don't judge people by their decisions to wear a mask or not or judge people for getting a vaccine or not is really important at this point," Miyashiro said.
Richard Barrera, trustee of the San Diego Unified School Board disagrees. He says instead of an end to the mask mandate for school kids we should be looking for something else from the Newsom's announcement.
"If you hit certain criteria for percentage of students who are vaccinated, where case rates are, you might start to see a relaxing of the indoor mask mandate," Barrera said.
According to the California Department of Public Health, masks will still be required for unvaccinated individuals in all indoor public settings and for all individuals regardless of vaccination status in higher risk settings like public transit and congregate living. Workplaces will continue to follow the COVID-19 prevention standards set by CalOSHA.
The San Diego Education Association, which represents teachers in San Diego Unified School District, says there are various opinions amongst teachers about the mask mandate, but overall, the organization supports the state’s decision to keep school masking for now.
“I think we need to continue to follow the science. I’m happy that his announcement didn’t begin immediately. I think we need to look at local metrics,” said Kisha Borden, San Diego Education Association President.
Education Assoc. Pres. Kisha Borden says County health officials should continue using local infection and vaccination rates to determine if students can remove their masks. Because the Omicron variant hit San Diego schools pretty hard, she says it became difficult to operate as usual.
“Teachers were not able to provide quality instruction during January because so many students were out. So many educators were out or if they weren’t out sick, they were welcoming other students into their classrooms,” Borden said.
The state on Wednesday will lift its mask-wearing requirement for vaccinated people most in indoor public spaces, but some counties -- most notably Los Angeles County -- will continue to require face coverings indoors.
Watch Related: CA announces no new guidance on masks in schools | Rynor Report