Unvaccinated citizens are no longer required to wear masks in public settings as of March 1, according to updated health guidelines stated by California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom.
Newsom announced in the beginning of February that California’s case rate has decreased by 65% since the Omicron peak and hospitalizations have stabilized across the state. However, vaccinated individuals weren’t able to go mask-less for another few weeks, beginning Feb. 15th.
Dr. Julie Anselmo, a pediatric doctor working for Central Coast Pediatrics, has seen firsthand how school aged children react to the virus, “We need to consider that younger children are unable to be vaccinated, and those with serious immune problems may be ineligible for the vaccine. We need to look at the community transmission level as a whole, and not just a universal lift of mask mandates.”
The CDC’s updated recommendations state that when low COVID-19 transmission rates, low hospital admission rates, and adequate hospital capacity are met, communities are then able to move forward in determining if they choose to relax their rules of masking.
Now, California no longer requires schools to enforce wearing masks indoors, beginning March 12.
According to the SF Chronicle, “health officials from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma Counties said in a joint statement that they will align with the state next week and will not keep in place local mask mandates.”
Overall, state officials are beginning to relax mask policies altogether. Recently, CA Parent Power has come forward to help other parents’ voices be heard amongst others.
Founded by Megan Bacigalupi, CA Parent Power consists of a group of parents across California who have come together and dedicated their time, resources, and professional skills to help center the voices of parents and families in CA public education.
As their mission is centered on taking steps towards returning to some sense of normalcy in schools, Bacigalupi says “the number one way we think that can be achieved is to allow for masks to be optional in schools.”
However, there are differing views on if the mask mandate should be lifted.
Second year student Sirelle Page says “I personally wouldn’t like masks to be lifted in schools because we’ll just get another wave of the pandemic.”
The hope is that masks no longer become a requirement, but a recommendation. Amid the controversy, elementary schools and schools with younger children have lifted the requirement of masks worn at school as well.
CDC epidemiologist, Greta Massetti says “Because children are relatively at lower risk for severe illness, schools can be a safe place for children, so for that reason we’re recommending that schools use the same guidance that we are recommending in general community settings.” Meaning schools will no longer require the use of a mask, unless chosen to.
Although children are at less risk for severe illness, we still need to think about the community as a whole. Many children with serious immune problems, or children with special health care needs are now more at risk if universal masking goes away.
Sonoma State came out with a statement on Feb. 16, regarding the mask mandate. President Judy Sakaki acknowledged the lifted mask mandate, however, stated “SSU will continue to require that face masks be worn inside all campus buildings.”
Sophomore May Haynes said “I think we are at a point where masks aren’t required anywhere else, so I think it’d be appropriate to lift the mask mandate, however, I think unvaccinated students should still have to wear them since they can spread COVID a lot easier than vaccinated students. It’s more of an incentive to get vaccinated too.”
While these new suggested guidelines have been announced, the CDC still recommends schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students within a classroom setting, to reduce the transmission risk. And in instances where this is not possible, it is important to layer multiple prevention strategies, such as screenings and testing.
SSU requires that all students upload their vaccination records to their MyHealth Portal and complete an online screening to be shown as proof before coming to in-person classes. However, it has been a concern that not all professors holding in-person courses are being diligent with checking students “cleared” statuses.
Going forward the hope is that masks can be discarded altogether, however, we can not only think about ourselves in a situation like this, as SSU shares the campus with a children’s school.
People and children with more severe health risks are relying on masks to keep them safe. The American Academy of Pediatrics President Moira Szilagyi suggests everyone keep in mind, “the toll that the pandemic has taken has not been felt equally across racial or economic lines, and we must acknowledge these inequities,” as we continue to keep moving forward and navigate the right choices to keep families, and children of our community safe and healthy.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism