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California Will Keep Masking, Testing In Schools Despite CDC Guidelines That Vaccinated Teachers, Students Don't Need Masks

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — California schools will take a more cautious approach this fall and continue masking and testing when classes resume, despite new CDC guidance that vaccinated teachers and students don't need to cover their faces inside of school buildings.

The CDC's updated guidelines released Friday emphasized in-person learning as a priority this fall. But with children under 12 not yet eligible for vaccination, the guidelines say schools should implement several layers of precautions, including masks worn indoors, and a distance of at least three feet maintained between people within classrooms.

Los Angeles Unified School District, Beutner, summer school, LAUSD budget
Los Angeles, CaliforniaJune 23, 2021Students wearing masks listen to teacher Dorene Scala during third grade summer school at Hooper Avenue School on June 23, 2021. Summer school has started in all grades in Los Angeles Unified Schools. Third graders at Hooper Avenue School wear their mask during class. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

"Given California's science-based approach and the fact that the state's school facilities can't accommodate physical distancing, we will align with the CDC by implementing multiple layers of mitigation strategies, including continued masking and robust testing capacity," Dr. Mark Ghaly, CA Health and Human Services Secretary said in a statement.

"Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction. At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated – treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment."

More guidance on school reopening this fall will be released in the coming days, Ghaly said.

"It would be safer for everyone to wear masks," said one parent.

"As a parent, I don't want him to be wearing a mask for four hours in school," said another.

Another parent agreed saying, "I think when they get vaccinated, we would be like what's the point of it. But I understand if the kids are not vaccinated wearing masks."

Just as parents differ on whether they want their children to wear masks when school resumes, health officials are at odds as well.

"We do not believe in any way that we have deviated from the CDC, in fact, we think the CDC gives California an opportunity to put together a plan with safety first,"  Ghaly said.

Dr. Alice Kuo, the professor in chief of medicine and pediatrics at UCLA, says unvaccinated kids should continue to wear masks, inside and out, due to the delta variant which appears to be more transmissible.

"The good news is, that even though transmission will occur, the illness is still little to no symptoms, so children even if they may have covid 19, do not seem to be getting sicker as a result," Kuo said.

Despite stalling vaccination rates, Kuo says it's crucial to get kids back on campus.

"What we have learned from this past year is that distance learning was not a one-to-one substitute for in-person learning," Kuo said.

A middle school teacher who spoke to CBSLA's Kristine Lazar said she'll feel much more comfortable if all her students are masked.

"Because of the variants, and because not every child is vaccinated, people are at risk," she said.

The updated guidance comes the same day that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill to invest billions into early education. AB 130 will invest billions into community schools and special education, fund summer and after-school programs, improve staff-to-student ratios, support the construction and renovation of state preschool, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten facilities; and support universal free school nutrition.

"Mark my words this is unlike anything we have ever done in this state. So many things we've promoted, so many things we've dreamed of, we're delivering when we sign this bill," Newsom said before signing the bill at Shearer Elementary in the Napa Valley Unified School District.


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