Citing limitations of schools to accommodate physical distancing, state officials announced Friday that California will continue to require masks indoors at schools.
The announcement came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines, saying vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings.
California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said students should not have to worry about being treated different for being unvaccinated.
“Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction,” Ghaly said in a statement. “At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated – treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”
Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are available to children as young as 12.
State officials said schools will be able to safely open for full in-person instruction by prioritizing masking, adding that this aligns with CDC guidance that says masking is important indoors when it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet.
The California Department of Public Health said the state won’t be recommending physical distancing “due to the barriers it would present to in-person instruction.”
The state also put an emphasis on coronavirus testing, with every school having access to free testing.
In Los Angeles County, officials have been strongly recommending that residents wear masks indoors in public places, regardless of their vaccination status, to limit the spread of the delta coronavirus variant.
The L.A. Unified School District has been requiring teachers and students to wear masks. The district’s website says the “most up-to-date LA County guidance on face masks and social distancing will be followed” when learning resumes in the fall.
The county health department told KTLA Friday it’s still reviewing the new guidance and is “committed to using all the tools at hand to allow for a focus on safety for everyone, employees and students, as planning continues for the fall.”