State health officials reverse course on enforcing masks at schools

Bay Area

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KRON) – State health officials say it’s now up to local school districts to decide how to enforce the state’s mask mandate in schools. 

The state is reversing course after releasing new rules that would have required schools to send unmasked children home. 

When students return to school in the fall, masks will be mandatory for everyone, regardless of vaccination status. 

The leader of the parent group “Open Schools California’” says the state is undermining the credibility of the vaccine. 

“How do you encourage people who are vaccine-hesitant to get themselves or minor children if you’re not conferring the benefits, I think it’s a mixed message CDPH is sending,” said Open Schools CA Executive Director Megan Bacigalupi. 

The California Department of Public Health released new guidelines this week, at first requiring unmasked students be sent home. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing a recall and has been the face of the state’s pandemic-related policies.  

Hours after criticism mounted against the new guidance, the state department of health made shifted course. 

Mask enforcement will remain in the hands of school leaders. 

In a statement Tuesday, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health wrote “the state recognizes the unique needs of each district and child.” 

Some parents note California is not following federal guidance on masking indoors. The CDC has said fully vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks but do need to physically distance. 

State health officials have said they worried distancing requirements could keep some schools from accommodating all students. 

“We need to lean in heavier on masking, use our testing resources and depend less on the recommendation around physical distancing,” said CA Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly. 

The California Teacher’s Association released a statement Tuesday, saying in part, with “the roadmap provided by science-based guidance, school communities are in a good position to ensure safe in-person instruction for students this fall.” 

State health officials say they will review the guidelines and possibly change them again by November 1. 

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