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California to drop mask mandate in schools beginning on March 12

Masks will no longer be required in California schools starting on March 12.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The state of California updated its school masking guidelines Monday saying masks will no longer be required in California schools starting on March 12.   However, the state is still recommending masks in schools.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health & Human Services Agency (CalHHS) Secretary, spoke Monday about the new mask guidance and policy.

“It will be a fluid, California approach moving forward,” Dr. Ghaly said.  

Dr. Ghaly said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are helpful in guiding the framework, but the state will do what is best for Californians moving forward.

Dr. Ghaly said that the mask guidelines are there for a reason.

“We continue to say 'please’ to those [school] districts that continue to heed these orders," Dr. Ghaly said.

Dr. Ghaly said that enforcement has been "tricky" through the pandemic.

“California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we’ve learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic," California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

California, Oregon and Washington are all updating mask guidance amid declining coronavirus case rates and hospitalizations.

What does this mean?

  • Masks are not required for schools or child care facilities.
  • Masks are required for public transit, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities. 
  • Local school districts or other jurisdictions could still require masking.

This announcement comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask guidelines on Friday.

RELATED: CDC eases mask guidelines for more than 70% of Americans

The agency is still advising that people, including schoolchildren, wear masks where the risk of COVID is high. That's the situation for about 28% of Americans.

Could there be repercussions?

Several schools in Northern California have already chosen to adopt mask-optional policies.

“The issues around enforcement — whether it's at the state or local level — have been tricky throughout the pandemic," Dr. Ghaly said. "We want to make sure that our messaging is not just one of law, but one that empowers communities to pay attention to health risks and health factors that might drive that decision.”

The Roseville Joint Union High School District voted on Feb. 10 to adopt a mask-optional policy, which began on Feb. 15, despite a statewide masking mandate for schools still in effect through March 11.

The RJUHSD and Schools Insurance Group are discussing possible liability the district or board members could face because of the mask-optional policy.

According to Cindy Wilkerson, the Executive Director of SIG, the letter was sent in response to the "perceived deviation from compliance with the current masking mandate."

"We are working with legal counsel to better understand requirements under governing documents and how that translates to consequences for the District. Involuntary termination is one of the consequences being considered," Wilkerson wrote in the letter. 

Wilkerson told ABC10 the discussions between SIG and the district are ongoing and no decision has been made.

READ MORE: 

Watch more on ABC10

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