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Mask Mandate

California to bar unmasked students from classrooms despite relaxed CDC guidance

California’s public health office says students and teachers returning to school in the fall are going to keep their masks on when indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has released guidance that said the state’s schools would continue to enforce a mask requirement for all students, faculty and teachers.

“Recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can occur safely without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies (e.g., masking) are fully implemented,” the CDPH said Monday. “This is consistent with CDC K-12 School Guidance.”

The state’s guidance breaks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, which was updated Friday and said students and faculty who are fully vaccinated no longer had to wear masks while in school.

“Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated,” the CDC said. “Consistent and correct mask use by people who are not fully vaccinated is especially important indoors and in crowded settings, when physical distancing cannot be maintained.”

One of the reasons for a universal mask rule, the CDPH said, was to prevent bullying.

“Detrimental effects of differential mask policies include: potential stigma, bullying, isolation of vaccinated OR unvaccinated students, depending on the culture and attitudes in the school or surrounding community,” the CDPH said in the release.

The guidance previously said students would be barred from attending class if they refused to wear face coverings without a medical justification. In a tweet, the CDPH appeared to walk that back to ensure schools offer some sort of remote learning plan.

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“California’s school guidance will be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools’ experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction,” it said.

New York state and Chicago Public Schools also have announced they would continue to require everyone to wear masks in their schools. States such as Texas, Iowa and neighboring Arizona have enacted laws banning masks in schools.

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