California Backs Off Of Previously Strict School COVID Guidelines, Won’t Require Masks In Schools

California is backing down on its previously strict COVID protocols, specifically for students and faculty in schools across the state. 

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released new guidance last week that mostly went into effect on July 1. The mask mandate for K-12 schools and childcare locations ended after March 11, but the new guidance applies to the 2022-2023 school year. 

The guidance states that no one can be “prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a school, unless wearing a mask would pose a safety hazard,” and schools must provide masks to students who do not bring their own mask to school and want to wear one. 

If students test positive for COVID, it is recommended that they stay home for at least five days, and wear a mask when they are with other people for a total of 10 days, especially when indoors.

“COVID-19 is here to stay, but we have learned methods and gained tools to decrease its impact on our health and well-being. California’s schools can manage this disease in sustainable and adaptive manners,” the CDPH guidance stated, although it added that the guidelines are “based on current scientific knowledge and anticipated trends” and are “subject to change, as COVID-19 conditions can shift rapidly and our response in schools must remain nimble and responsive to dynamic challenges.”

Local health and education departments are also able to create or continue more guidance, “including required actions” for schools and jurisdictions. 

Antigen tests should also be used as the first choice to test for COVID in school settings, as opposed to PCR tests. Students and employees should also be tested before coming back to school after large school breaks, per the guidance. Water fountains are allowed to be used by students and workers, and ought to be cleaned regularly. 

Among the requirements the guidance lays out, employers still need to allow for COVID supplemental paid sick leave for the majority of employees through September 30 of this year. 

As NBC Bay Area reported, students in California won’t be forced to get vaccinated against COVID until at least July 1, 2023, depending on if the vaccine receives full approval from federal groups for every age. 

School workers and teachers have been required to get a COVID vaccine since August of last year or receive weekly testing for COVID. They also do not need to wear a mask. 

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