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Calif. Reverses Course, To Give School Districts Discretion On Mask Mandate

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — After issuing a requirement that all California students without masks would be turned away from school campuses regardless of their COVID-19 vaccination status, the state appeared to immediately issue a reversal Monday night, sparking major confusion.

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Los Angeles, CaliforniaJune 23, 2021Third grader David Cortez wears his mask during class at Hooper Avenue School on June 23, 2021. Student wears his mask during third grade summer school at Hooper Avenue School on June 23, 2021. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The California Department of Public Health Monday afternoon had released new K-12 guidance which stated that schools would be required to send students home for refusing to wear a mask indoors. However, on Monday night, the agency tweeted that it would clarify its requirements, indicating that it would be up to individual school districts on how to enforce mask requirements.

"California's school guidance will be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools' experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction," CDPH tweeted.

A spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday night confirmed to the Los Angeles Times that CDPH will update its policy to get rid of language stating that unmasked students would be prevented from going to campus. Instead, the state would allow school districts to each set their own individual policies.

When reached for comment Tuesday, Alex Stack, a spokesperson for Newsom, referred CBSLA to CDPH's latest guidelines.

In its new guidelines, CDPH argued that requiring universal masking would allow schools to drop social distancing.

"Universal masking in schools, which enables no minimum physical distancing, allowing all students access to full in-person learning," the agency wrote.

CDPH had announced last week that it would still require face coverings at schools, despite new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that fully vaccinated students and teachers would not need to wear masks.

Local reaction to the new state rules were mixed Monday night.

"Since I'm all vaccinated and stuff, and I don't have to wear a mask, then it'll kind of feel weird coming back to wearing a mask," 12-year-old Elio Laporta said.

Although it will be weird, Elio and his dad, Robert Laporta, said they would be following the rules, even though they know the state's decision does not sit well with everyone.

"It's so complicated," Laporta said. "We have family members that have chosen not to get vaccinated, and it's a big controversy in our family. I think it's the best for the common good at this moment."

The announcement came as the number of newly confirmed COVID cases in Los Angeles County topped 1,000 for the fourth consecutive day and the number of hospitalizations also continued to rise.

"We've definitely seen a noticeable uptick of unvaccinated patients coming to the [emergency room] with COVID symptoms testing positive," Dr. Michael Daignault, who works at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, said.

He said that he has seen more COVID-19 patients in the last 10 days than he has in the last three months.

"Some having co-morbid conditions, some not," Daignault said. "Some being exposed at work, possibly, or some that took the last three months as a sign that things were going so well that it was an invitation to travel and do all these things without first getting vaccinated."

A new survey of unvaccinated Americans found that only 7% said they would get the vaccine, 15% said they probably would get the vaccine, 29% said they would probably not get the vaccine and 46% said they would definitely not get vaccinated.

As for California's schools, state health officials said they would reevaluate the guidelines on masking in schools no later than Nov. 1.

More information about CDPH's latest guidelines can be found on the agency's website.


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