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Late Monday, hours after issuing the guidance, the California Department of Public Health rescinded its order for schools to send home students who refuse to wear masks indoors at schools.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. Tim 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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.

  2. Brenda Lebsack 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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/

  3. Christina 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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.

  4. TM 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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?

  5. Jayson Kaze 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

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

  6. Brenda Lebsack 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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.

  7. Suzanne Dempsey 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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 2 weeks ago2 weeks 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.

  8. Amy Smith 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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.

  9. Regina 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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.

  10. VM 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

    Why should vaccinated adults wear masks?

  11. Dick Jung 3 weeks ago3 weeks ago

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

  12. KW 3 weeks ago3 weeks 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?