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Oakland Unified School District Loosens Masking In Outdoor Spaces; Indoor Mandate Continues Into April

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – The Oakland Unified School District announced Friday that it is dropping its mask mandate for outdoor spaces next week, but will continue requiring them indoors until at least mid-April.

OUSD said in a letter to the school community, "As you know, we have been requiring all students, staff, volunteers, and visitors to mask up inside and outside at all OUSD facilities this school year. We will be moving to optional outdoor masking for all students, staff, volunteers, and visitors starting on Monday, March 21."

The district said it is continuing to work with labor partners and other stakeholders to determine the future of making indoors, which OUSD said would continue through at least April 15, more than a month after the state dropped its school mask requirement.

At the end of last week, California shifted its guidance on masks inside schools from required to "highly recommended." Most Bay Area school districts, along with the Alameda County Public Health Department, aligned with the state's new guidance, but individual districts retain the right to implement stricter requirements.

Last week, Oakland Unified said it was retaining the mask requirements for now over worries about a surge in COVID-19 cases after students return from spring break, which is scheduled for the beginning of April.

"We are concerned about a potential post-Spring Break surge and recognize that some individuals on District campuses will continue to need to mask (such as individuals who are symptomatic or unvaccinated and exposed)," OUSD said on March 10.

In response, Oakland Unified said that it plans to distribute COVID-19 rapid test kits to students and staff ahead of spring break, with the expectation that they would test themselves twice before classes resume.

A similar mass testing program over winter break during the omicron variant surge found nearly 1,000 COVID-19 cases, according to the district.

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