RIVERSIDE (CNS) – Despite indications the state was on the verge of
lifting its mask-wearing requirement in schools, the state’s Health and Human
Services secretary said today the requirement will remain in place for now,
pending a Feb. 28 reassessment of COVID-19 case rates and other pandemic
Dr. Mark Ghaly said a lifting of the mandate is inevitable, saying it
is just “a question of when.” He expressed confidence that the mandate would
be lifted after that Feb. 28 reassessment, barring another sudden spike in
virus infection rates and hospitalizations.
Ghaly gave a lengthy presentation noting significant downward trends
over the past month statewide in COVID case rates, hospitalizations and testing
positivity rates. But he said as far as schools are concerned, the state is
only “close to a point” where such a move can be made, so no immediate change
will be made.
“Parents should not hear that we aren’t making a move,” Ghaly said,
insisting the state is only “taking a little more time” to ensure pandemic
metrics continue on a downward path.
He said he respects that many parents who have been calling for a
lifting of the mandate will be upset by the decision, but he insisted there are
others who maintain uncertainty about whether lifting the requirement in
schools is safe for students and staff.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has expressed a desire to ease up on the school
masking mandate, although he noted last week there has been some resistance
from teachers’ unions who still have safety concerns.
Ghaly noted that even when the state lifts its requirement for masks
in schools, individual counties or school districts could still require them.
The state on Wednesday will lift its mask-wearing requirement for
vaccinated people most in indoor public spaces, but some counties — most
notably Los Angeles County — will continue to require face coverings indoors.
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