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San Diego Unified will not require mask district wide, may implement for individual schools

The district will utilize its school site metrics and county data to determine whether masking is needed at each individual school.

SAN DIEGO — In less than two weeks, students and staff  in the San Diego Unified School District will be heading back to school with new mask guidelines. 

After nearly two and a half years since the pandemic started, the district will not require masks when the school year starts. 

In an email sent to parents and staff, the district stated:

“..we do not anticipate districtwide masking as we enter the new school year. This means that we will not require districtwide masking if San Diego county enters the high tier in the CDC COVID-19 community level. Instead, we will utilize our school site metrics and county data to determine whether masking is needed at each school.”

Susan Barndollar, Executive Director of Nursing and Wellness for the district, helped break down those metrics. 

"We are going to look at metrics. We have a set of metrics if an individual school site, if a school were to get to 3 or more outbreaks or 5% or more infected within 2 weeks, then the individual school would go into mandatory masks for 2 weeks," said Barndollar.

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the district and the CDC says they only have to isolate for five days. Once they test negative, they can then return to school without a mask, even though masks are encouraged. If they still test positive after day 5, Barndollar says they must stay home until day 11. After day 11, Barndollar says they can return to school without a test. The CDC recommends wearing a mask through day 10. 

Just last week, San Diego County was in the red high transmission level according to the CDC website. Tuesday, the community level was at the medium level.

In this level, the CDC says to wear a mask if you have symptoms, a positive test or exposure to someone with Covid-19, wear a mask on public transportation and get tested if you have symptoms.

The CDC also says to consider wearing a mask indoors if you have a high risk to illness.

"I think one of the bigger things from the CDC is that they wanted contact tracing to be limited or recommended it could be limited to health centers, but again, we are not adopting that until the state of California had a chance to look and our own county had a chance to look at it," said Barndollar.

However, there is still a possibility of a districtwide mask mandate in the future.

"There is never a time where we are given any absolutes. We have to be able to pivot. Data is coming all the time. We are always doing what’s best for San Diego Unified students," said Barndollar.

San Diego Unified will also continue to offer voluntary, weekly covid testing and vaccines at school sites.

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