The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) began a ban on cloth face masks on Monday, changing the requirements for masks to be more form-fitting, non-cloth, and coming with a nose wire, due to new masking guidance by the County.
Since late 2021, more and more health departments and officials have warned that regular cloth masks, which have been the most popular way to mask in public since the pandemic began in March 2020, have not been effective in combatting the new omicron variant. Earlier this month, many health departments across the state responded by upgrading mask recommendations to double masking and using respirators or N95 masks. This included the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which issued new safety guidelines and recommendations around masking last week.
On Friday, the LAUSD joined in the new masking policies, becoming the largest school district in the country to disallow cloth masks for students. They made the shift largely due to both the new masking recommendations from the County, as well as the continued spike of new cases in the County of the omicron variant, which remain at over 25,000 new cases a day. 99% of all reported COVID-19 cases have been of the omicron variant.
Under the new policies, “Masking will be required at all times, indoors and outdoors. It is required that all students wear well-fitting, non-cloth masks with a nose wire. All employees are required to wear surgical grade masks or higher. Los Angeles Unified will continue to provide these kinds of masks to students and employees at school sites if they need them. As with the previous masking requirements, this does not apply to students with mask exemptions.”
Cloth masks in particular will not be allowed anymore, with exemptions for the new masking policy being students who have disabilities, medical conditions, or mental health conditions who would be unable to abide with non-cloth masks.
New non-cloth mask policy in LA public schools
“The shift away from cloth masks was prompted by guidance from Los Angeles County health authorities,” said LAUSD spokesperson Shannon Haber on Friday in an announcement. “Our in-school COVID-19 rates have dropped but we are continuing to be diligent and agile in creating the safest learning environment.”
Teachers reported the compliance remained high on Monday, but noted that many parents remain upset over the masking changes.
“We had some parents and students disregard the order today,” said “Olivia” a LAUSD teacher, to the Globe on Monday. “In some classes, students came in wearing cloth masks with slogans scribbled on them that parents put on, denouncing this new order. Some were eloquent, but others said things like “Doing this will not save anyone” or “When will we be upgrading to gas masks?”
“Most people are indifferent though. Some who didn’t get the notice got the new masks at the front office, and besides some students saying that this was stupid or a few saying that it was harder to breath with N95s on, it’s been going ok. Most people just want all this to be over. What we don’t need are the few teachers we had who shamed students who came in with cloth masks. Like, they just didn’t here or are rebelling in an odd way. Just point them to where they can get a new mask and not be humiliated.”
Other LAUSD teachers contacted by the Globe noted similar reactions across the city on Monday, with most complying while some parents and students openly denouncing the latest policy change.
“It’s been like this for over a year now,” said “Sharon,” another LAUSD teacher. “We have a new policy shift based on the latest scientific or medical data, and really pro-new policy people come out and like to yell at students while people against the policy antagonize teachers even though we have nothing to do with it and are just trying to teach.”
“I don’t know how important these new masks are for everyone, just please, if you want to complain, complain to the district. Let the teachers do their jobs.”