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California Dept. Public Health confirms school districts to enforce mask mandate as they see fit

The state still requires everyone to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. Enforcement of that mandate appears to be in the hands of districts

CALIFORNIA, USA — The California Department of Public Health updated its coronavirus rules for public schools Monday afternoon, then hours later changed course once again, according to reports from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the California Department of Public Health said: 

"There has been some confusion about the guidance so we wanted to offer some clarification and make sure you have the latest guidance. California is focused on reopening schools safely for in person learning and is doing so in line with guidance from the CDC.

As many of California's school facilities can't fully accommodate physical distancing, California will align with the CDC’s guidance on school reopening by layering multiple other prevention strategies, including:

  • Continued masking guidance: California will continue to require that masks be worn indoors in school settings, which also will ensure that all kids are treated the same.
  • Robust testing program: Every California school has access to free testing through the robust state testing program for schools.

Mask enforcement will continue to be handled by local schools as the state recognizes the unique needs of each district and child."

As many of California's school facilities can't fully accommodate physical distancing, California will align with the CDC’s guidance on school reopening by layering multiple other prevention strategies, including:

The new rules apply recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with some modifications. Enforcement of those rules now appears to be up to individual school districts across the state. 

The state still requires everyone to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status. But the state won't require everyone to physically distance. Initially, the CDPH also indicated that schools would have to exclude students from being on campus if they were not exempt from wearing a face-covering but refused to wear one. That language became official at 3 p.m., according to the Los Angeles Times

At 7:25 p.m., the state public health organization tweeted additional information that indicated clarification would be forthcoming. 

The LA Times said a spokesperson for Governor Gavin Newsom's office confirmed that the verbiage about excluding students from campuses would be dropped from the official language. 

The CDC guidelines as of last week say no masks are needed for fully vaccinated students and teachers but it is up to states and school districts to decide their own policies. 

The state has said exceptions will be made when it comes to health reasons or disabilities. 

In addition to the masking rules, if students are exposed to the virus but don't have symptoms, they likely won't have to miss class time to quarantine, according to the Associated Press. Vaccines are strongly encouraged, but not required. Students should eat lunch outside whenever possible. And schools should limit nonessential visitors who are not fully vaccinated.