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Students To Wear Face Masks At All Times Under LA County Plan To Reopen Schools

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - When schools in Los Angeles County eventually reopen, students will required to wear face masks at all times under a plan released Wednesday.

The 45-page framework released by the county Office of Education imposes severe restrictions aimed at shielding two million students countywide from COVID-19, including mandatory face masks, a limit of 16 students per classroom, staggered schedules and other measures.

Under the plan, school lunches would be served in classrooms instead of cafeterias, hallways would be one-way only, and each student would be assigned one ball to play with alone.

"Our main priority is health and safety," said Debra Duardo, the superintendent for the county's office of education. "Unfortunately some of the things that children could enjoy in the past, they're not going to able to do that."

The Office of Education provides services and financial oversight for the county's 80 school systems.

While the vast majority of schools have transitioned to online learning, teachers and other school officials have acknowledged challenges to learning at home and say it's critical for leaders to prepare for a return to campus, even as schools face potentially deep cuts under Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed budget.

The plan was released just before the county announced 933 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus, raising the county's total to 48,700, though Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the county is in the recovery phase of the pandemic.

"Hospitalizations are down, our deaths are down," she said. "The number of cases is up, but that's a good thing as I've noted because it just means a lot more people are getting tested, but our positivity rate is also down."

Ferrer also announced that pools, hot tubs and saunas in multi-unit residences or that are part of a home owners association could reopen for use in addition to churches and retail shops, which could both allow people inside once again.

County officials also said it expected an answer by Thursday or Friday on whether it could allow in-person dining to resume and barber shops and hair salons to reopen, putting the county into Phase 3.

Ferrer also reported that more than half of all COVID-19 deaths in L.A. County — 53% — lived in institutional settings.

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