News Analysis Jul 10, 2021 5:47 PM EST

California rejects science, demands masking in school systems despite CDC guidelines

The agency announced vaccinated staff and students can ditch masks. But California believes the rules need to treat everyone equally.

California rejects science, demands masking in school systems despite CDC guidelines
Nick Monroe Cleveland, Ohio
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Health officials in California announced on Friday said they’re still requiring masks for everyone in schools, contradicting the newest CDC guidance saying vaccinated attendees are exempt.  

As reported by the Associated Press, the CDC loosened their COVID guidelines for schools on Friday. They said that anyone who either works or attends in-person learning this autumn doesn’t need to wear a mask if they’re vaccinated.

It leaves open a potential divide, according to some experts. The agency is not mandating vaccines for teachers or students, nor detailing how school staff can query students regarding their vaccination status.

When it comes to how that’s addressed ?—California is taking the all-or-nothing approach. When everyone comes back to school this fall, masks will be mandatory for everyone.

According to ABC7, the state’s Health and Human Services Secretary put an optimistic spin when announcing the policy. He highlighted that at least educators have a solid in-person learning strategy in place now.

Dr. Mark Ghaly defended the approach as meaning equal treatment for everybody.

"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."

Ghaly denied that California was “diverging” from the CDC, rather that the federal agency gave ample room for the state to develop their specific policy.

The CDC previously suggested all students and staff wear masks throughout the school day, only removing them to eat or drink.

But now they’re saying:

  • "No one at schools needs to wear masks at recess or in most other outdoor situations. However, unvaccinated people are advised to wear masks if they are in a crowd for an extended period of time, like in the stands at a football game."
  • "Ventilation and handwashing continue to be important. Students and staff also should stay home when they are sick."
  • "Testing remains an important way to prevent outbreaks. But the CDC also says people who are fully vaccinated do not need to participate in such screening."
  • "Separating students into smaller groups, or cohorts, continues to be a good way to help reduce spread of the virus. But the CDC discouraged putting vaccinated and unvaccinated kids in separate groups, saying schools shouldn't stigmatize any group or perpetuate academic, racial or other tracking."

The agency also said social distancing isn’t required for vaccinated staff and students. But they also stressed schools should space desks three feet apart in classrooms.

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