Credit: Allison Shelley for American Education

Ah, never mind.

Late Monday, hours after issuing the guidance, the California Department of Public Health rescinded its order for schools to send home students who refuse to wear masks indoors at schools.

The overall requirement that students and adults must wear masks inside school buildings will remain, but the new position will be that local schools can decide for themselves how to deal with noncompliant students, as they have for the past year, Alex Stack, a spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom, said Monday. Stack said revisions to the guidance, clarifying the issue, will be released on Tuesday. He didn’t cite a reason for the change.

The guidance published Monday afternoon said that schools “must exclude students from campus” who are not wearing a mask indoors and who refuse to wear one that the school provides. It had elaborated on a masking requirement that the Public Health Department announced on Friday.

California’s mask requirement differs from the guidance issued last week by the Centers for Disease Control, which said only unvaccinated students and staff would be required to wear masks. However, the CDC said states do have the discretion to impose additional protections as conditions warrant.

California’s requirement does not apply to students who are exempt from wearing a face covering under state guidelines. These include children under 2, students with medical or mental health conditions or who are hearing impaired or communicating with a hearing-impaired person. For students who are excluded for not wearing a mask, schools must provide alternative educational opportunities, the state said.

Several school organizations, including the Association of California School Administrators and the California Teachers Association, said they back the face-covering requirement. “Requiring masks can help compensate for the loss of social-distance rules. All things considered, it’s a fair trade-off,” said Edgar Zazueta, senior director of policy and government relations for the administrators’ organization. “There will undoubtedly be many families who are upset the state is continuing the mask mandate, but other families will be relieved.”

But the mandate has infuriated some parents, including Reopen California Schools, a parent organization that sued several districts and the state last spring over the failure to reopen schools to full in-person instruction. The organization is vowing to do it again, this time over mandatory masking, even though Newsom and the Legislature are requiring that schools be fully open this fall.

“It’s outrageous,” Jonathan Zachreson, a father of three students and founder of the group, told The Associated Press. “We’re continuing to put the burden of this pandemic on our children, and it needs to stop.” He said his group would file a lawsuit in the coming weeks.

California, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of Covid-19 vaccinations and, at this point, one of the lowest rates of infection, is one of 10 states that will require masks in schools in the fall, according to the digital platform Burbio. Other states include Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and North Carolina. Eight states, including Texas, Arizona, Iowa, Utah and Vermont, have banned schools from requiring masks.

The new California guidance explains the reasons for its mask requirement. Masks, it said, are one of the most effective measures to control the spread of Covid-19 by both aerosols and droplets. It’s vital in schools that cannot maintain the recommended 3-foot physical distancing, serves as a precaution against the spread of more transmissible variants like the delta variant and is protective when it’s difficult to identify those who are not vaccinated.

In a statement cited by the California School Boards Association, Ben Chida, the chief deputy cabinet secretary for Newsom, acknowledged that the mask requirement may embroil school district leaders in disputes.

“We think that easily implemented and effective measures like masking are a far better option than other, harder-to-implement options,” he said. “In terms of the cultural and political disputes that arise, part of what we’re trying to do is absorb as much of the impact as possible at the state level so that it’s not a local fight.”

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  1. Ruth Musser-Lopez 2 months ago2 months ago

    Its disgusting that the Needles California School District is not requiring students to wear masks or get vaccinated. Parents are worried about their children getting sick and dying because of selfish adults. The High School Principal told one parent, in effect: "you can complain all you want ... I run this school the way I want." I have yet to find out if the School District Superintendent, Mary McNeil, requires teachers … Read More

    Its disgusting that the Needles California School District is not requiring students to wear masks or get vaccinated. Parents are worried about their children getting sick and dying because of selfish adults. The High School Principal told one parent, in effect: “you can complain all you want … I run this school the way I want.” I have yet to find out if the School District Superintendent, Mary McNeil, requires teachers and administrative personnel to get vaccinated … she is very difficult to reach for comment.

    Replies

    • Ken 1 month ago1 month ago

      Your comment makes no sense and ignores all science, statistics, and evidence. Children are by far at the least risk when it comes to Covid. Statistically, children literally have a greater chance to die or be significantly harmed by being struck by LIGHTNING than to die or have long term symptoms from Covid. There is essentially no scientific evidence to support masking in schools - even the SINGLE study that the state … Read More

      Your comment makes no sense and ignores all science, statistics, and evidence. Children are by far at the least risk when it comes to Covid. Statistically, children literally have a greater chance to die or be significantly harmed by being struck by LIGHTNING than to die or have long term symptoms from Covid. There is essentially no scientific evidence to support masking in schools – even the SINGLE study that the state of California cites to support its mask mandates refers to ITSELF as largely inconclusive. People like you need to actually get informed with facts, not unsubstantiated alarmism. If you want to mask your kids, go ahead. But at least wake up to the fact that you’re pushing a false narrative that spits in the face of reality.

  2. Donna 2 months ago2 months ago

    If parents refuse to put masks on their unvaccinated children, teach those children in separate classrooms in separate buildings to protect the children of parents who wish to protect their masked children from the Covid virus and the Delta variant.

  3. Tim 3 months ago3 months ago

    I don't think we should worry about stigmatizing staff or students. People choose to get the vaccination for themselves or their child. People who are vaccinated shouldn't have to wear useless protective gear just so others don't feel different. We wouldn't require people with good eyesight to wear glasses just so those who need glasses don't feel different. This should not be considered backtracking. It is setting a policy in response to … Read More

    I don’t think we should worry about stigmatizing staff or students. People choose to get the vaccination for themselves or their child. People who are vaccinated shouldn’t have to wear useless protective gear just so others don’t feel different. We wouldn’t require people with good eyesight to wear glasses just so those who need glasses don’t feel different.
    This should not be considered backtracking. It is setting a policy in response to the latest science about disease transmissability.

  4. Brenda Lebsack 3 months ago3 months ago

    Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at UCSF said “to require masks is a gray area because there is so little data about the use of masks by children.” Dr. Jefferey Klausner, a clinical professor of population and public health sciences at USC said, “the rules go too far and are not based on local data.” https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.ocregister.com/2021/07/13/california-changes-course-on-school-masks-will-let-individual-districts-enforce-mandate/amp/

  5. Christina 3 months ago3 months ago

    Students already do not wear masks correctly, worse than most adults. Combining that with the vaccine rate, the case rate, and the already low risk to children, forcing them to continue to wear masks in school is silly at best. Additionally, many parents will choose not to send their children to school because of the masking mandate. These decisions are not scientifically based, and certainly are not what is best for kids.

  6. TM 4 months ago4 months ago

    There is a marked difference for a child being taught by a teacher in a mask or not. Better to get in person instruction than nothing. But if a teacher is vaccinated and prefers to not wear a mask, shouldn’t this be an option? I also think this is going to be another private school public school divide. Will private schools have vaccinated teachers who don’t have to wear masks, thus providing a better educational experience for a child?

  7. Jayson Kaze 4 months ago4 months ago

    Since when did granting freedom of choice only apply when it is easy to regulate?

  8. Brenda Lebsack 4 months ago4 months ago

    Regina, it's confusing and the rules keep changing because these decisions are probably not based on hard data. Definitions are important. I contacted the Calif Dpt of Public Health, who sets these guidelines, and asked them to please define the word "science" since they say they are basing their guidelines on "science". Their email response was, "they are not able to answer that question." Do you find that odd? … Read More

    Regina, it’s confusing and the rules keep changing because these decisions are probably not based on hard data. Definitions are important. I contacted the Calif Dpt of Public Health, who sets these guidelines, and asked them to please define the word “science” since they say they are basing their guidelines on “science”. Their email response was, “they are not able to answer that question.” Do you find that odd? If their decisions were based on objective data their directives would not flip-flop. The CDPH’s refusal to define the word “science” increased my skepticism of how their decisions are being made.

  9. Suzanne Dempsey 4 months ago4 months ago

    As a classroom teacher for the past 38 years, masking is the fairest and safest way not to stigmatize students and staff – as well as keep everyone safer. Backtracking is such a bad idea and sends the wrong message to teachers, students, and families who cannot count on district administrators to keep them safe as we return back to the classroom and our sites filled to capacity.

    I am so disappointed that the state has changed its guidance on this.

    Replies

    • Rsy C 3 months ago3 months ago

      So you are a teacher not a Dr. right? you have no medical proof they are safe for kids to wear mask all day breathing in C02. They are being poisoned. Have you heard about pneumonia? Stick with teacher because you have no clue.

  10. Amy Smith 4 months ago4 months ago

    This is a step in the right direction, although I hope all schools allow for families to then decide what is best for their child instead of removing them from in-person education. Our children have already suffered enough being out of school over a year.

  11. Regina 4 months ago4 months ago

    My thing is….teachers are the people enforcing. They need to make a straight decision and not like this. What are the guidelines!!!! Why does this have to be so confusing.

  12. VM 4 months ago4 months ago

    Why should vaccinated adults wear masks?

  13. Dick Jung 4 months ago4 months ago

    Jerry Brown’s “subsidarity” principle remains alive and well in this pandemic era.

  14. KW 4 months ago4 months ago

    What science is being followed when at the height of the pandemic students grades TK-2 were not required to wear a mask and now when vaccine rates are up and case numbers are down we are requiring them to wear a mask? Where is the science that I can attend a professional baseball game in stadium with 1000s of people, go to the grocery store, go out to dinner, and not wear a mask yet, our children have to in school?