During the weekend, schools across Southern California reinstated indoor mask mandates in the buildup to the return of the fall semester next month, despite many parents and groups now in opposition to the mandates.
Many of the affected schools are in K-12 districts. Of those to announce the return of mandates during the weekend, the most prominent was the San Diego Unified School District. The decision, triggered by the District due to the County surpassing the “high” CDC COVID-19 community levels of new cases and hospitalizations on Thursday, will at the very least be active for two weeks. However, with the rise of BA.4 and BA.5 variants of COVID across the state, it will likely not be going away anytime soon.
“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 community level according to the CDC and County data and we will communicate if there are any changes in two weeks,” the San Diego school district said during the weekend. “If your student is participating in summer school or other summer enrichment program, please send them to school or their program with a mask. If they do not have one, masks will be provided. Students and staff will be required to wear their masks while indoors only.”
Joining K-12 districts were higher and secondary education colleges and universities. UC Irvine, UC Riverside, and UCLA were among the most prominent to return to the mandates, with UCLA actually having been on a continual indoor mask requirement renewal since last month. Like the K-12 districts, most of the campuses have all tied the return of the mandates to the CDC “high” community level threshold.
“In order to help mitigate possible exposure to and transmission of COVID-19 on property controlled by UCI, and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the UCI community, the following requirements apply,” said UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman in a letter on Monday. “This Executive Directive (“Directive”) is being re-issued and effective on the date indicated above, as Orange County recently moved into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC”) “High” Covid-19 Community Level. This Directive supersedes all prior campuswide guidance regarding face coverings to the extent such guidance is inconsistent with this Executive Directive.”
“This Directive applies to all individuals on UCI controlled property and UCI employees conducting work off-site when not at their living unit.”
The number of districts and universities bringing back the mandate is expected to be significantly increased later this month due to LA County likely falling under the CDC threshold by then, despite many county health experts only calling the situation “media hype”.
The return of mask mandates in schools
While few districts and universities have already announced mask mandates for the upcoming fall semester, with San Diego’s school district specifically saying that they haven’t brought them back for the semester yet, many worry that they will ultimately be back in place before schools start fall classes next month.
“It’s good to be cautious, especially when it comes to the health of children,” said Luisa Renteria, a nurse in Los Angeles who has assisted COVID patients since March 2020, to the Globe on Monday. “But they are treating this as if COVID is still out there as this big, scary disease that is killing everyone instead of treating like a more seasonal disease like the Flu which it is quickly becoming.”
“Now new COVID-19 case numbers have rebounded a bit. We can’t deny that. California hit a 7-day average peak of new cases in January with 119,536. Beginning of February it was 66,000, with April going below 3,000. These new variants then caused numbers to go back up. June hit 15,471, and recently the state has been back up over 20,000 per weekly average. But the average number of deaths have stayed low. We are below where they were in April and are currently at a weekly average of 36.”
“This is what you aren’t hearing. No one is really dying from COVID anymore, it’s just the number of cases, and to a lesser extent, the number of hospitalizations. But rather that focus on methods used to combat other season illnesses, especially washing hands, it’s just back to masks based solely on where the CDC line is. They aren’t taking into account anything else really, like vaccination levels, class makeup, parental decisions, class need, or any other of the dozens of factors. And they absolutely should.”
“They’re looking at this through the wrong lens, and the people they are hurting now will be everyone ordered to mask up this time around.”
Other schools and higher education campuses are expected to announce the return of masks, possibly for the fall semester as well as the rest of the summer, in the coming weeks.
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