California mandates universal masking in schools, diverging from CDC guidance

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

Students in California will have to wear masks until at least early November, the California Department of Public Health said on July 12.

The CDPH’s policy diverges from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation made three days prior, which said that vaccinated students and teachers don’t need to wear masks at school.

The universal masking policy, however, means that schools won’t need to enforce mandatory physical distancing, vaccinated and unvaccinated students will be treated the same and quarantine requirements will be more lax — which wouldn’t have been possible under the CDC’s recommendation.

The new quarantine requirement allows students who were wearing masks during a close contact case to continue attending school, as long as they are asymptomatic, follow mask requirements, get tested twice a week during the ten days following an exposure and continue to wear a mask in other community settings.

The new state guidance takes into account a variety of considerations, including stigma surrounding different mask wearing policies, difficulties in tracking vaccination status and uncertainty surrounding the highly transmissible Delta variant.

According to the CDPH, differential mask policies can lead to “potential stigma, bullying [and] isolation of vaccinated or unvaccinated students, depending on the culture and attitudes in the school or surrounding community.”

The only exception to the masking policy is that students who live together — regardless of vaccination status — will not have to wear masks around one another at school.

The CDPH will continually reassess its policy, and by November 1, 2021, will determine whether to update mask requirements or recommendations.

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