L.A. Urges Return to Mask-Wearing Amid Winter Covid Spike

Los Angeles is urging that residents wear masks again in all indoor public settings amid a Covid-19 spike that’s expected to intensify in the winter months.

The county announced Thursday that it is once again “strongly recommending” people resume masking, although it is not requiring it in most indoor venues. However, masks are still mandated at health care and congregate-care facilities, for those infected in the last ten days, and in establishments that have imposed their own restrictions, county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said according to ABC7 News.

Los Angeles and many other progressive cities finally lifted their masks mandates a few months ago amid a decrease in Covid-19 contraction nationwide. Children enrolled in public pre-school and daycare in New York City, who were not vulnerable to the disease and not likely to spread it, were among the last groups to be freed of masks.

Last January, Los Angeles forced students to wear high-grade, non-cloth masks indoors and outdoors in K-12 public schools and be tested as a condition of returning to class.

On Thursday, the local seven-day average of daily new Covid-19 infections in Los Angeles increased to 100 per 100,000 citizens, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate the previous week was 65 per 100,000 citizens, the outlet noted.

“Now it is strongly recommended that all individuals wear a high-quality mask that fits well in the following settings: in public indoor spaces; when using public transit, including buses, ride-shares, taxis and medical transport; correctional and detention facilities; and homeless and emergency shelters,” Davis said.

Davis warned that the number of reported cases is probably an undercount as many people test for the virus at home and don’t report a positive diagnosis to health officials. The number of Covid-positive patients being hospitalized is also growing in the county but reportedly only about 40 percent of them have been admitted because of Covid-related complications.

The county health officer told residents to be careful ahead of the holidays and when attending large gatherings.

While there is some evidence to suggest that wearing a well-fitting N95 mask might help curb transmission around the margins, research showsthat cheap cotton surgical masks, the kind the most commonly worn throughout the pandemic, are ineffective at preventing transmission.

Click here to read the full article at the National Review

Alameda County to Reinstate Public Indoor Mask Mandate Beginning June 3rd

Businesses here don’t want them because they cut into business, but look what happened – they brought them back’

The Alameda County Public Health Department announced on Thursday that they would be reinstating the mask mandate for most indoor public places in the County.

According to a statement from the County Public Health Department, the move to reinstate masking comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases in Alameda County has shot drastically up in the past several weeks, surpassing last summers Delta variant wave and already encroaching on the number of cases from the 2021-2022 winter surge. The County is averaging between 800-900 new cases a day with 102 people currently being hospitalized for contracting the virus. Both figures are up by 20% from only a few weeks ago.

While the County has become the first to reinstate mandatory indoor masking since the end of the winter surge earlier this year, there will be exceptions in the County. K-12 schools will not be covered by the mandate with it already being the end of the school year, and with the city of Berkeley also not falling under the mandate due to them having their own public health department. However, all other areas, including Oakland, fall under the new mandate.

“Rising COVID cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” said Alameda County public health officer Nicholas Moss in the Thursday press statement. “We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end. Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities.

“We held off doing this as long as we felt it was reasonable, but with the numbers continuing to go up and when we started to see concerning signals, we felt we needed to act.”

Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla also noted that “We thank Alameda County residents, employers, and businesses for continuing to rise to the challenge in response to this pandemic. Unfortunately, COVID has not gone away and once again, we must take measures to protect ourselves, friends and community members, and employees and patrons from this very infectious virus.”

Negative reaction to the return of the indoor mask mandate

However, many citizens and business owners in Alameda County seriously questioned the return of the mask mandate on Thursday, with many reacting negatively to the Department’s decision.

“No. No no no no no,” said Lucinda Jackson, a local East Bay business owner who said her businesses only returned to the black for the first time since early 2020 just last month, to the Globe on Thursday. “They said it wouldn’t happen again. They said on TV masks wouldn’t be back. Everyone was saying they wouldn’t be back. Businesses here don’t want them because they cut into business. But look what happened. They brought them back.”

“This is the same government that right after all the BLM protests, said to go out and support black owned businesses. And now, by putting the mandates back, they are hurting us. This isn’t a one-dimensional issue. Putting the mandates back have consequences way beyond health, which, we should note, isn’t hospitalizing nearly as many people now. This makes me ashamed of my County.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Masks Still Required For LAUSD Students. Until When? It’s Hard To Say

Some parents plan to protest outside teachers union’s office Tuesday. Meanwhile, UTLA is polling members on district’s proposal to lift masking mandate and end COVID-19 testing in April, according to email.

Across Los Angeles County, students in a number of school districts now have the option of ditching their masks while inside the classroom.

But not so for Los Angeles Unified students.

Late Friday, L.A. Unified announced it would continue to require masking inside school buildings until further notice, hours before the state and county lifted their school masking mandates, thus leaving it up to districts to determine their own masking rules.

Parents who for months have demanded an end to school masking mandates on Monday, March 14, continued to voice frustration that masking is not yet optional in the nation’s second-largest school district and are planning to protest outside the United Teachers Los Angeles office in downtown L.A. on Tuesday morning.

The district has an agreement with UTLA that requires the parties to negotiate before L.A. Unified can lift its masking mandate.

The two sides met Friday, during which the district proposed changes to its health-and-safety protocols, but the union did not present a counterproposal, according to a memo that UTLA sent its members afterwards.

The district and UTLA are scheduled to meet again Wednesday to resume negotiations, according to the union.

In a subsequent email to its members over the weekend, UTLA stated that the district had proposed making indoor masking optional and ending mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for students and staff at secondary schools on April 1 and for those at elementary schools on April 29.

The district also proposed conducting baseline testing after spring break, which is scheduled to take place the week of April 11, according to the union.

UTLA has begun surveying its members to see how they feel about the proposed changes, with polling to end Monday night, according to the email.

“The district is not lifting the indoor masking requirement at this point because we don’t have a bargaining agreement,” the email stated.

That the district even has to negotiate with the teachers union has some parents up in arms.

Angelita Rovero, whose two children attend Portola Charter Middle School in Tarzana, said UTLA is overreaching and should not have the right to negotiate students’ health. Rovero opted out of paying dues to the union when she taught in LAUSD, she said.

“The union represents the teachers. They should not be representing the students,” she said. “I’ve never been on board with the union having so much control. … I’m dumbfounded that the LAUSD (school) board is owned by UTLA.”

Meanwhile, a parent at West Hollywood Elementary said she would have no problem with continued masking if that would make teachers more comfortable coming to work.

“I’m fine with whatever makes our teachers feel safe and comfortable teaching our children. They’re the bosses in the classroom,” said parent Kory Keith-Aronovitch. Her daughter, a kindergartner, had no trouble adjusting to wearing a mask all day when the school year started, she said.

“Kids are adaptable and nonpolitical,” she said.

To be clear, though the state and county have lifted their school masking mandates, health officials from both levels of government continue to stress that wearing masks in educational settings remains “highly recommended.”

As for the district’s intention when it comes to its masking policy, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who joined the district a month ago, signaled in a Twitter post on Saturday that he’s in favor of lifting the mandate.

“I strongly support amending Los Angeles Unified’s previously negotiated agreements to align with current health guidance” from the state and county, Carvalho tweeted.

Click here to read the full article at the Los Angeles Daily News

California Officials Raided Preschool, Interviewed 2-Year-Olds Over Mask Policies

 California state regulators conducted an investigation at a San Diego preschool and privately interviewed children as young as 2 without their parents’ consent about their masking practices.

Officials with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) visited all three locations of Aspen Leaf Preschool in January after receiving a complaint that the school was not enforcing the state’s mask mandate, according to the CDSS’ response to a complaint by the preschool’s owner, Howard Wu.

According to the CDSS letter, which Wu shared with Fox News Digital, officials with the agency’s Community Care Licensing Division entered the three preschool locations on Jan. 19, separated the children from their teachers and interviewed them privately about their masking practices.

In his complaint to the agency, Wu described the investigation as a “simultaneous, multi-school raid” that resulted in “unnecessary and inappropriate child interviews.”

SUGGESTED: Elementary student wearing N95 mask outdoors passed out in extreme heat, parents say

“Every family we heard from after the inspections were furious about the interviews,” Wu told Fox News Digital. “We were open the whole pandemic about not masking children and the reasons why. The policy was on our website. Put simply, the mask guidance says children can NOT mask when eating and sleeping. In full day child care that’s 3 hours, so masking at other times offers no health benefit. All the families (except 1 in January) supported the policy.”

Wu also argues that the CDSS does not have the authority to enforce a mask mandate instituted by another agency, in this case the California Department of Public Health.

“We believe in good faith that the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction to enforce another agency’s mask guidance,” he said. “They could have issued us a citation in 5 minutes and let us take our challenge up through the proper channels. The simultaneous multi-school raids and the child interviews just felt like a power play.”

In its response to Wu, the CDSS said it holds the authority to “enter and inspect a licensed child care facility at any time, with or without advance notice, to secure compliance with, or prevent a violation” of state laws, as well as “interview children without prior consent and, when necessary, conduct the interviews in private.”

“Based on their personal observations and interviews of the facility directors, staff and children, CCLD staff determined that the licensee failed to ensure that staff and children used face coverings as required by the State Public Health Officer Order of June 11, 2021, thus violating the children’s personal right to safe and healthful accommodations,” the letter said.

The agency has issued Aspen Leaf a Type A citation, the most severe violation type, Voice of San Diego reported

In response to the citation, which Aspen Leaf said it is appealing, the school has updated its COVID-19 policy to require masks on all children over 2 until the state’s mandate ends on March 11.

In his official complaint, Wu included multiple complaints by parents who were outraged over the CPSS investigation.

“I do not feel this interview served my child’s safety or well-being,” wrote one parent, “and I believe it may have given a harmful impression about her obligations to speak with strange adults in private without known caretakers present.” 

“I understand that while the licensing agency is authorized to conduct private interviews with the children – this authority was put in place and intended for use when there is a situation of possible abuse, which is ENTIRELY absent from this situation,” wrote another parent. “Therefore, this agency has blatantly overstepped their authority.”

“Frustrated. Angry. Aghast. Confused,” another parent wrote. “These are only a few of the words that describe what we felt as parents of a 3.5 year old who was questioned by government officials at his preschool regarding mask-wear indoors.”

Wu said he believes his preschool was unfairly targeted because he challenged the CDSS’ authority.

“After it all happened I actually pulled every licensing report issued in California during the pandemic to get the data to show we were treated more harshly than any other center,” he told Fox News Digital.

Click here to read the full article here at Fox11

What Will It Take For S.F. Public Schools To Drop The Mask Mandate? Officials Won’t Say

San Francisco private schools and many Bay Area districts expect to abandon mask mandates later this month, but the city’s public school district has decided against the change and declined to provide details or dates for when their 49,000 students will be able to drop face coverings.

District officials say they will continue to require masks indoors, noting that county and state health officials “strongly recommend” students and staff continue to use them.

But require and recommend are not the same, and many families and health experts are asking for clarity on what criteria the district is using to decide when it will lift the mandate.

The district said masking is part of the current discussions with the union.

The San Francisco Unified’s stance will leave its public school students following a different set of rules than many if not most private school students in the city, as well thousands of other students across the Bay Area, where officials in most counties have already announced they will lift the mask requirement as of March 12.

While some families felt relief that masks would stay on in San Francisco public schools, others expressed frustration at the lack of clarity and metrics.

Districts in Contra Costa, San Mateo, Solano, Marin, Santa Clara counties as well as many others across the state announced this week they would follow the state’s lead and leave mask use up to individuals, including Santa Clara Unified, San Ramon Unified, Mill Valley Elementary and Mt. Diablo Unified.

Alameda County and Berkeley health officials announced Thursday they would also lift the mandate, which would likely mean some districts there would also make masks optional, although Oakland and other districts had not yet said what they will do.

In San Francisco, at least a handful of private schools have also said they will stop requiring masks, including Sacred Heart Cathedral, Adda Clevenger School and all of the city’s Archdiocese schools, which serve 23,000 students.

In addition, city health officials announced public buildings will no longer require masks either, except during public meetings.

That means public school students can go into city libraries, City Hall, boba shops, malls, restaurants and virtually any other venue or retail establishment without a mask. Classrooms will be virtually the only place they will have to wear one.

Bay Area infectious disease experts say that while SFUSD’s decision to maintain the mask mandate is not in lockstep with many other districts, it has both positives and negatives — and overall, is a complicated issue.

“I see both sides,” said UCSF infectious disease Peter Chin-Hong, saying the current “gray zone” of the pandemic has led to a lot of confusion and frustration, especially as it relates to schools.

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

Another Sacramento-Area School District Moves To Stop Enforcing COVID Mask Mandate

Another Northern California school district moved this week to relax its enforcement of the state’s COVID-19 mandate requiring students to wear masks in class.

The Rocklin Unified School District decided in a special board meeting Wednesday to make masks optional for its students.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration previously signaled that it plans to loosen the state mandate at the end of this month, shifting to a policy that would strongly recommend masks rather than require them.

The Rocklin meeting was called to consider “litigation and liability for COVID-19 protocols and options for enforcement moving forward,” Board Vice President Julie Hupp said. “We feel this is important to consider before our students return from their break.”

“We’re listening to everyone on both sides, being as thoughtful as we can be,” she said before the board went to closed session.

After three and a half hours, the board announced that “current face covering enforcement protocols prevent students from achieving their fullest academic potential and social emotional well-being.” Citing a decreasing case rate, the board directed the superintendent to alert families that students would be instructed on state guidance for masks, but would not be excluded from classrooms or school activities for not wearing it.

Masks will still be available to students who want one, said board member Dereck Counter. Staff and adult volunteers on campus must wear masks while on campus to comply to OSHA guidelines.

District spokesman Sundeep Dosangh said state agencies have not contacted the district over its masking policy.

The new policy takes effect when students return to campus on Feb. 28, which is when the state is expected to issue new guidance on school masking.

The Board of Trustees’ decision comes just a few months after it voted 4-1 for a resolution requesting local control over vaccine and masking policies.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Paso Robles School Board Votes to Defy the State, No Mask Mandate

Paso Robles school board votes to defy the state, no mask mandate

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District voted 5-2 on Tuesday to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mask mandate for schools, and to allow students to decide if they want to wear a mask at school.

More than a dozen students and parents spoke against the mandate, and for student choice. Multiple speakers chastised teachers who adversely graded students they caught not properly wearing their masks.

Board members and speakers spoke of the hypocrisy of making students, the least vulnerable in the community, wear masks at school while adults are not required to wear masks in most settings.

Click here to read the full article at CalCoastNews.com

Schools Say They’re Caught ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ As Anti-Mask Protests Grow

As students’ and parents’ frustration on masks grows louder, schools take the heat for enforcing state’s mask mandate

Some San Diego County school district leaders are pleading for help as they bear the brunt of families’ discontent over the state’s indoor school mask mandate, which at this point has no expiration date.

Scores of San Diego County students, many who are not yet teenagers, are protesting the mandate by refusing to wear masks in class. The protests have garnered more attention in the past few days, ever since state officials announced at a press conference last Monday that they are not lifting the state’s indoor school mask mandate yet.

State leaders say they will reassess state COVID data on Feb. 28 but have suggested they won’t lift the school mask mandate until sometime after that date.

Families who don’t agree with masks have run out of patience with the school mandate as they watched California officials lift its mask mandate for virtually all other sectors of public life last week and as a growing number of states have lifted their school mask mandates.

Several of the student protests are happening in North County, where the parent-led, anti-mask Let Them Breathe movement began and where superintendents have complained about the state throwing down blanket COVID mandates on schools.

“I’m just really sick of all the masks,” Addy Spangler, 12, who refused to wear a mask at her school, Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad Unified, said on Sunday. “If (Gov. Gavin) Newsom doesn’t have to wear a mask, I don’t see why we have to.”

To follow the state’s mask mandate, schools are excluding students who refuse to wear masks from classrooms and having them wait in an outdoor location on campus until their parents pick them up. The practice has prompted complaints from parents who say their children are being denied instruction after exercising their right to free speech.

“I don’t want my child segregated,” said parent Wendy Griffin, on Sunday. Her 9-year-old daughter Emily refused to wear a mask at Kelly Elementary in Carlsbad Unified. “I don’t think that that’s right. It’s bizarre to me that we’re living in a land of segregation.”

But according to some local school leaders, the families’ anger is misplaced, because schools are required to enforce the mask mandate on the state’s behalf, even though several school leaders are unhappy with how the state has been handling COVID school mandates.

The superintendents of several local districts, including Poway Unified, Carlsbad Unified, San Marcos Unified and Alpine Union, said they are disappointed the state has not yet released a timeline for easing the school mask mandate. Districts in other parts of the county, notably San Diego Unified and South County school districts, have been much more likely to embrace COVID safety measures such as masking and vaccine mandates.

In a letter to state leaders on Friday, Poway Unified Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps shared frustration that state officials have placed the burden of mask enforcement on educators. She said educators are exhausted after two years of surviving distance learning, keeping up with COVID safety measures, following the state’s frequently changing school COVID rules and enduring anger and harassment from parents about masks, school closures and other COVID measures.

“Our already-taxed teachers and administrators should not and cannot be the mask police. Students should not and cannot be excluded from their education,” Kim-Phelps wrote. “The angst and conflict over masks have become an extreme distraction at our schools.”

Superintendent Ben Churchill of Carlsbad Unified said in an email on Sunday that there’s a misconception that school districts have the ability to defy the state’s mask mandate, and school staff have been put in “a very difficult position” because they face significant risks if they don’t enforce it.

“Our teachers, principals and staff are between a rock and a hard place. They just want to teach … They don’t want to fight battles about statewide mandates,” Churchill said. “But … they’re the ones asked to enforce the rules and they are far more accessible than any of the statewide decision-makers.”

Click here to read the full article at the SD Union Tribune

Masks Won’t Be Required In Many Places Starting Wednesday 

Two months after it was put in place to handle the Omicron surge, California’s mask mandate falls at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, though face coverings will still be required in many settings, including schools, hospitals and public transit.

San Diego County’s coronavirus numbers continue to make the case that the pandemic is receding. The daily number of new case notifications received by the county health department dipped below 1,000 Saturday for the first time since Dec. 20, coming in at 933 followed by 787 Sunday.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, state secretary of health and human services, said in a news conference Monday that falling trends in the number of new cases and hospitalizations provide confidence that pulling back on the mask mandate makes sense.

But, he added that while it’s no longer a requirement, wearing a mask indoors, especially in crowded locations, is a good idea given that transmission rates remain high relative to previous quiet periods such as the spring and early summer of 2021.

“We are still strongly recommending that people wear them in public indoor places,” Ghaly said.

The public, though, has largely been ignoring indoor masking rules in many locations, especially restaurants. Generally, enforcement of mask requirements outside health care and education has recently been nearly nonexistent. The point was illustrated at SoFi Stadium Sunday when cameras panning more than 70,000 Superbowl attendees showed that the vast majority had their faces uncovered. 

Maintaining the mandate in schools, but ignoring it in stadiums, drew continued fire from many in the public Monday. Ghaly did not address the dichotomy when asked to comment Monday.

He did stress that the virus continues to exact a toll even though case rates have fallen more than 70 percent over the past month.

“People have lost their lives to this nasty virus, and that continues,” Ghaly said. “That said, we understand a little better where it’s headed, and what’s happened over the last many weeks, and that is why we are prepared, after tomorrow, to allow the guidance for public indoor settings.”

By far the biggest continuing mask requirement remains in K-12 schools. Ghaly said that masks will continue to be required in schools, though a reassessment is set for Feb. 28.

Dr. Davey Smith, chief of infectious disease research at UC San Diego, said he trusts the state’s public health apparatus to react to trends in disease data by adjusting the responses it asks for, and sometimes demands, from the public.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

L.A. County Still Weeks Away From Lifting Indoor Mask Mandate, Ferrer Estimates

Los Angeles County is probably weeks away from lifting its indoor mask mandate, and at the latest could ease the order by the end of April — unless a new coronavirus variant poses a threat.

There are two triggers that could result in L.A. County easing its indoor mask mandate, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced Tuesday.

The first is the county entering a “moderate” rate of transmission, in which cases fall below 730 a day for two consecutive weeks, Ferrer said.

“We anticipate being able to get to ‘moderate’ transmission — if we can continue to drive down the rates, as we are right now on our cases — within a few weeks. But we’re not there yet,” Ferrer said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

L.A. County is averaging about 9,500 cases a day, according to a Times analysis of state data. Case rates in the county are dropping in half every week, Ferrer said. If this pace continues, the county would fall under the goal of 730 cases a day in early March and could exit the indoor mask order two weeks later, according to a Times analysis.

The county’s goal matches the recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends that vaccinated people in indoor public settings wear masks when there are 50 or more cases a week for every 100,000 residents; for L.A. County, this would mean 730 cases a day.

The second condition that would trigger the lifting of the county mask order, Ferrer said, is for eight weeks to elapse after children ages 6 months to 4 years become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering the vaccine for that age group on Feb. 15, and an advisory panel to the CDC is meeting the following week, so it’s possible that vaccines could become available by the end of February. This means L.A. County could lift its mask order by the end of April.

“We think the end of April is the sort of endpoint,” Ferrer said.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times