Los Angeles Unified School District students and staff can remove their masks outdoors at schools staring Tuesday.
Because daily COVID-19 hospitalization numbers remained below 2,500 for seven consecutive days, L.A. County relaxed some masking rules last week, including for outdoor spaces at TK-12 schools.
While L.A. Unified did not immediately follow suit, it later announced it will align with the county and drop the requirement for outdoor masking on Tuesday.
LAUSD’s new superintendent, Alberto Carvalho, first made the announcement to KTLA last week, saying it was time to consider relaxing some protocols.
“The science backs the unmasking of kids in outdoor settings, the unmasking of adults in outdoor settings with the appropriate precautions being taken,” Carvalho told KTLA.
He said school infection rates remain low.
“We need to acknowledge that positivity rates in our community and particularly in our schools are significantly low, the level of vaccination exceedingly high, particularly for 12 and older,” Carvalho said.
Masking indoors at schools remains required by the county and state. So is masking on public transport, including on school buses.
L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said mask requirements and other mitigation approaches likely helped successfully limit number of school outbreaks in California.
“Even though California has the largest school-age population in the country by far, it experienced the lowest number of school disruptions, which are defined as either school closures or periods of remote school schooling, of any state in the entire country,” Ferrer said in a media briefing last Thursday.
Still, indoor masking is still important to keep transmission numbers low as many children remain unvaccinated, officials said.
As of Feb. 13, just 34% of children aged 5 to 11 years old in L.A. County had received one or more COVID-19 vaccine doses, and only 26% were fully vaccinated.
“That leaves many children unprotected against COVID-19,” Ferrer said.
The health director reminded parents that even though most children who get COVID-19 don’t get seriously ill, it can still happen.
“All of the data indicates that children are likely to be infected with COVID-19 as adults,” Ferrer said. “And while we’re all relieved that so far most children experience mild illness, there are some who do get very sick or have long-lasting health problems.”
In L.A. County, over 275 children have been hospitalized with MIS-C, with many requiring care in the ICU.
MIS-C, or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, is a rare complication of COVID-19 that usually affects school-age children and can be dangerous.
Different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. The symptoms appear weeks after coronavirus infection.