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All employees at Los Angeles County public and private schools are required to wear medical-grade masks and students will now have to mask up outdoors when it’s crowded, according to an updated health officer order.

The new rules, dated Jan. 1, require staff to wear upgraded face coverings — like surgical masks or stronger ones like KN95 or N95 respirators.

“Cloth face coverings alone are no longer acceptable, as they do not provide the same level of source control or personal protection as a proper surgical mask or higher level PPE,” the order reads.

Schools are asked to comply with the new rules no later than two weeks after campuses reopen following the winter holiday.

Additionally, the Los Angeles County Unified School District announced Monday it will require students and staff to get tested for coronavirus before returning to campus next week.

The changes come as the county sees a coronavirus surge that has brought more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases every day for the past four days. Hospitalizations numbers and the COVID-19 positivity rates have also climbed, raising alarm bells countywide.

Dozens of school districts throughout the county reopen this week, while the largest, the L.A. Unified School District, reopens next week.

Students aged 2 and older are now required to wear masks while outdoors on campus when it’s crowded or when distancing is not possible, unless they are eating or drinking.

County officials are also requiring coronavirus testing for all those who are allowed to stay in school
after being exposed to the virus, regardless of vaccination status.

While it is “strongly recommended” that they also wear wear upgraded masks, it isn’t required by L.A. County.

Screening testing is also still not required by the county, but it is now being “strongly recommended.”

“At this time given the dynamics of the current pandemic surge and the increased infectivity of
the omicron variant, screening testing has become increasingly important as a mitigation strategy to
limit in-school transmission,” the order reads.

The L.A. Unified School District has been requiring weekly COVID-19 testing for all students and staff.

Everyone will still be required to test weekly throughout January, regardless of vaccination status.

Then beginning Jan. 31, asymptomatic vaccinated students will no longer be required to undergo the weekly testing. It will only be required for unvaccinated teachers and students ages 12 and older who were exempt from the district’s vaccine mandate.

That’s part of new LAUSD protocols that go into effect Jan. 10. The new rules also include requiring outdoor masking at schools where fewer than 85% of students on campus are fully vaccinated.

Unvaccinated, asymptomatic L.A. Unified students who come into close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 will participate in “modified” quarantine, which them to continue in-person instruction while wearing masks the entire time and undergoing regular testing.