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Home / News / Education / California and CDC differ on school mask mandates, both urge vaccinations

California and CDC differ on school mask mandates, both urge vaccinations

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The new guidance on schools reopening this fall from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that schools maintain “at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms, combined with indoor mask wearing by people who are not fully vaccinated” to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. If physical distancing can not be maintained, then other preventions measures — such as indoor masking — be implemented.

In its latest guidance, the California Department of Public Health says that K-12 students are required to wear faces masks indoors, they are optional outdoors, and thus the physical distancing factor may be eliminated as “in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., masking) are implemented.”

As of Wednesday, 36.2% of eligible children in California are fully vaccinated, 8.6% are partially vaccinated but 55.1% (or roughly 1.7 million of the 3.1 million eligible 12- to 17-year-old children) are not yet vaccinated, according to state data.

We asked some local school districts for comment on how the new school year will look.

Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo told Beacon Media Tuesday that they are to implement layered efforts of protection.

“As students return to in-person instruction in the fall, schools will continue to implement layered efforts of prevention and mitigation to ensure safe and welcoming learning environments. Masks, vaccinations, COVID-19 testing, social distancing, and regular hand washing, among other efforts, are all components of safe schools as students return to the classroom,” she said. “We have seen low transmission rates in school settings due to the robust safety measures that schools have implemented with fidelity. I am confident that our schools and districts will follow these new guidelines, including ensuring the continuity of instruction for students who will not wear a mask at school.”

On Tuesday, the state walked back a previous order banning unmasked students from campuses. In its revised guidance, the state said local school districts will have to determine how to enforce the masking requirements if students refuse to wear them in the classroom.

Monrovia Unified School District’s new superintendent shared his thoughts on the plans for school reopening.

“Monrovia Unified School District will abide by all requirements established by public health officials as has been the case throughout this pandemic,” Monrovia Unified Superintendent Ryan D. Smith told Beacon Media Monday morning.

“Recent changes in state law now require districts to offer a robust independent study program for families who prefer their students continue to learn at home. Prior to the pandemic, Monrovia Unified School District has had a strong independent study program in place at Mountain Park School. Mountain Park remains a viable option for Monrovia USD students whose families are interested in this type of option. Informational sessions will be offered for interested parents and families prior to the start of the school year with additional details including how to register being available on Mountain Park’s website. At our Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on July 28, a presentation on our independent study option will be shared.”

The new guidance comes as worries increase about what setbacks the Delta variant could unleash on eased restrictions and the 2021-22 school year.

The CDC is adamant that “Students benefit from in-person learning, and safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall 2021 is a priority.” Notably, in a July 9 update, the agency “Added language on the importance of offering in-person learning, regardless of whether all of the prevention strategies can be implemented at the school.”

The CDC and state strongly recommend vaccinations for all eligible teachers, staff, students and adults especially as children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines.

There still is no federal law that mandates vaccinations and anti-vaccine rhetoric is widespread.

“There’s no reason not to get vaccinated,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert told CNN’s Jake Tapper during an interview Sunday.

“We know from extensive experience, not only in our own country, here in the United States, but in other countries, that the vaccines that we are using work extremely well against the Delta variant, particularly in preventing advanced disease that would lead to hospitalization and likely death in some circumstances,” Fauci told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday in another interview.

“Achieving high levels of COVID-19 vaccination among eligible students as well as teachers, staff, and household members is one of the most critical strategies to help schools safely resume full operations,” the CDC said in its guidance.

“Vaccination is currently the leading public health prevention strategy to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Beacon Media has learned that there will be a countywide meeting with Los Angeles County Office of Education and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and other officials Thursday. We will update readers as the situation warrants on safe school reopenings.

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