Mask mandate to remain in place for CA schools as guidelines lift for other indoor activitiesMonday, February 14, 2022
California Health & Human Services Agency Sec. Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Monday that although the indoor mask mandate will be lifted for vaccinated people on Feb. 15, it will remain in effect for schoolchildren.
The state will reassess the current mask requirement for schools on Feb. 28.
The new recommendation will be conditioned on factors such as pediatric hospitalizations, case rates, test positivity rates as well as case rates.
"Today, a change isn't being made but in two weeks, confirming that the data continues to be where it is taking the time to prepare and work with the school community and communities at large that we anticipate making the change," Ghaly said.
Dr. Ghaly said California has led the way in protecting K-12 students from the virus with its COVID-19 protocols.
"We have 12% of the students in the country here in California schools, and we have experienced less than 1% of school closures this year." said Ghaly.
UCSF's Monica Gandhi says she doesn't think it is a fair approach for the state to keep masking school kids but lift restrictions for everyone else.
"If the state is allowing mask optional for adults that same approach should be applied for children. Using metric-based approaches with objective criteria to release mask mandates consistently across a state will increase trust in public health authorities," Gandhi said.
He says input from different community groups such as teachers, staff and public health leaders have been considered in keeping the mask mandate for schools.
Dr. Ghaly says falling case rates, a decrease in the spread of COVID-19, and improved hospital staffing led the state to lift the indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people.
However, he reminded the public that wearing a mask can tremendously reduce your risk of getting COVID and some masking is better than none.
According to data, the state's 7-day case rate is down more than 75 percent over that past month and hospitalizations have dropped nearly 41 percent since Jan. 14.
"We've always talked about how we need to keep the hospital system well supported and protected so they can take care of all the needs of Californians. And this gives us a little bit more confidence that that's where we're heading," said Dr. Ghaly.
Dr. Ghaly also mentioned that although omicron's hospitalization rates were much lower than other variants, he cautions this might not always be the case with other strains of COVID-19.
"We've seen people who have gotten vaccinated also get infected. Thankfully, they don't get nearly as sick and same risk of having a bad outcome," said Dr. Ghaly.
After Feb. 15, unvaccinated people still will be required to be masked indoors, and everyone - vaccinated or not - will have to wear masks in higher-risk areas like public transit and nursing homes and other congregate living facilities, officials said.