Indoor masking will no longer be required at California schools and childcare facilities after March 11, state officials announced Monday.
The modified health order is the state’s latest move to ease COVID mandates. It could potentially allow millions of K-12 schoolchildren to go maskless in the classroom for the first time since the pandemic began—a topic that has sparked statewide debates at in-person protests and school board meetings over the past few months.
California officials also announced on Monday that face coverings will be strongly recommended, but no longer mandatory, for unvaccinated individuals in most indoor settings beginning Tuesday.
Local jurisdictions still have the option to keep their own mask rules if they believe it is warranted.
For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the state’s largest school system, appears bound by an agreement with its teachers union to require face coverings at least through the end of the current school year, the Los Angeles Times reports. However, district officials could attempt to renegotiate the matter.
Currently in Los Angeles County, businesses have the option to drop their indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people. However, face coverings are still required for individuals in high transmission settings such as public transit, emergency shelters, heath care centers, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and long-term care facilities, officials said.
“California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we’ve learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Monday.
“Masks are an effective tool to minimize spread of the virus and future variants, especially when transmission rates are high. We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward.”
Two weeks ago, California became the first state to formally offer a detailed plan to move from a crisis phase to an “endemic” approach in which Californians will work to live with the COVID virus, according to Newsom. The SMARTER plan—an acronym for Shots, Masks, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education and Rx—relies on the state identifying surges or variants more quickly, combating misinformation about the virus and adding health care workers, among other goals.
Two other western states, Oregon and Washington, will join California in modifying their indoor mask policies, officials said Monday.
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