California changes course on schools enforcing mask mandate

FILE — In this Feb. 25, 2021 file photo students are dropped off at Newhall Elementary School in Santa Clarita, Calif. California health officials announced new coronavirus rules for public schools on Monday July 12, 2021. The new rules eliminate physical distancing while making sure no one will miss class time even if they are exposed to someone with the virus. But the state would continue to require all students and staff to wear masks indoors.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The California Department of Public Health has updated its coronavirus rules for public schools.

The new rules apply recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with some modifications.

MASKS STILL REQUIRED, BUT NOT DISTANCING

All teachers and students must wear masks while indoors. But they don't have to stay at least 3 feet (0.9 meters) away from each other.

The rules' stated goal is to make sure as many students can attend full-time, in-person instruction as possible. State officials worried some schools would have had trouble accommodating all of their students with the physical distancing rule. So they got rid of it, in exchange for everyone wearing a mask.

Initially, the state said school districts should send students home if they refused to wear a mask. But Monday evening, the department posted a tweet saying it would clarify its rules so school districts could make their own decisions about enforcing the mask rules.

State officials have promised to review these rules, and possibly change them, by Nov. 1.

EXPOSED TO THE VIRUS? NO PROBLEM

The rules say students who are exposed to someone who has the virus don't have to stay home for 10 days to quarantine. They can continue to attend class if they don't have symptoms and if they keep wearing a mask and are tested twice a week for 10 days. But they can't participate in sports or other extracurricular activities during that period.

LUNCH OUTSIDE

Schools should still enforce physical distancing during lunch. The state says schools should have students eat outside as much as possible.

LIMIT VISITORS

The state says schools should limit nonessential visitors, including volunteers, who are not fully vaccinated.

VACCINES ENCOURAGED, NOT REQUIRED

The state says vaccination “is strongly recommended” for everyone eligible. Right now, that's anyone 12 and older. But the state doesn't say it's required.

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