California Students Will Keep Wearing Masks This Fall

Ralph Ellis

July 12, 2021

Public school students and teachers in California should continue to wear face masks indoors this fall whether they're vaccinated or not, the state Department of Public Health announced Friday.

State schools will also institute "robust testing" but won't enforce physical distancing because it interferes with person-to-person education, the department said in a news release.

The California guidance is stricter than new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says students and teachers don't need to wear masks indoors if they're fully vaccinated.

"Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction," California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said.

"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."

The state Public Health Department intends to issue more guidance Monday, July 12, the news release said.

The health department statement didn't mention the delta variant, but that strain of COVID-19 appears to be behind an upswing in COVID-19 cases in California following months of steady decline.

The CDH reported 1,143 new daily coronavirus cases over the seven-day period that ended Tuesday, a 30% increase since mid-June, The Los Angeles Times said. Hospitalizations because of COVID-19 have risen from 915 in mid-June to 1,228 on Tuesday.

The upticks are worrisome because California had once been such a hotbed for COVID-19 that tents were set up in hospital parking lots to handle patient overflow. When the pandemic was at its peak, the state was reporting 45,000 new cases daily with 22,000 people hospitalized daily because of COVID, the LA Times reported.

The Los Angeles County Health Department recently reported that the delta variant accounts for about 50% of its new cases.

A robust vaccination program drove down case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths so much that the state reopened the economy in mid-June. The state Department of Health says more than 60% of residents are fully vaccinated.

Health authorities and government officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated, noting that a large majority of infections occur in unvaccinated people.

"Let's be perfectly clear about the Delta variant," tweeted Monica Gandhi, MD, an infectious diseases expert at UC San Francisco. "This strain is not spreading like wildfire across the U.S. This strain is spreading in highly unvaccinated regions without natural immunity."