School districts across California can stop requiring students and staff to wear masks in two weeks, since the state announced Monday it is dropping the mask mandate in schools after March 11.
The California Department of Public Health now only strongly recommends people wear masks in schools, given plunging caseloads and hospitalizations, and rising vaccination rates.
Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers, applauded the move but hopes local districts will keep equity in mind when deciding whether to drop the mandate.
“Our Black and brown communities have been higher hit with COVID rates, higher hit with deaths, and lower vaccination rates,” Freitas explained. “The school districts that are serving those communities need to keep that in mind when they are making that decision.”
San Francisco schools are keeping the mandate for now and the Los Angeles Unified School District may need to keep its mask rules in place through the end of the year in accordance with its labor agreement. More than 1,000 school districts in California now will be able to re-evaluate mask policies.
The change brings California in line with updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Freitas emphasized schools need to keep providing high-quality masks for teachers and students who wish to wear them.
“There are many people that have autoimmune situations or higher risk,” Freitas pointed out. “They need to continue to wear masks, and it needs to be OK. Schools need to create an environment where people don’t feel harassed if they continue to wear masks.”
Schools are advised to continue their push to get more students vaccinated and to offer free testing.