California health officials walked back specifics of a statewide masking policy for K-12 schools earlier this week, hours after it was issued. The policy would have barred students from campus if they refused to wear a mask and directed schools to offer “alternative educational opportunities.”
A few hours later, California Department of Public Health said they were revising the guidance to “be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools’ experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction.”
The state health department planned to drop the language about excluding students who refuse to wear a mask, according to the Los Angeles Times. A spokesperson told NBC they will leave it up to local school officials to decide how to enforce mask mandates, as was the case last year.
California schools are expecting adults and children alike to wear masks inside for the 2021-2022 school year, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC has issued guidance that vaccinated students and adults can go maskless, however California health officials are keeping their mandates in place.
The back-and-forth on mask policies comes as the delta variant of the coronavirus increases the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in nearly every state. Federal officials say the vast majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths right now are in people who are not fully vaccinated.
In Los Angeles County specifically, public health officials have urged everyone to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
Currently, emergency use authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine is available for Americans ages 12 and up.