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Gov. Newsom expected to announce changes on school masking

3/30/2021 - Oakland, Calif., USA: First grader Kiara Morris, 7, wears a mask while sitting in class during the first day of partial in-person instruction at Garfield Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Garfield Elementary School partially re-opens for students in grades kindergarten through second grade beginning Tuesday, March 30. (Jessica Christian / San Francisco Chronicle / Polaris) ///

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce new guidance for schools in the near future.

“There’s 1,050 school districts in California, 10,500 plus schools, everyone has strong opinions, local boards, superintendents, county,” Gov. Newsom said. 

At a press conference Wednesday, Newsom announced masks are still required at schools due to low vaccinations. About 28% of 5- to 11-year-olds received the COVID-19 vaccine, compared to over 92% of those 18 and up who have received at least one dose of the shot.

“That’s substantially smaller percentage in our 5- to 11-year-olds,” Newsom said. 

Newsom said health officials will outline their revised recommendation on school mask-wearing in the coming days.

Dr. Abraar Karan, an infectious diseases physician at Stanford, suggests parents communicate with a trusted physician.

“Certain age groups are not yet eligible for vaccinations and for others, I think parents are sort of weighing the risk benefits. They want to see the vaccines are safe, so it will take time for people to adopt and uptake,” Dr. Karan said. 

Dr. Karan adds mask-wearing is necessary for schools.

“Kids that are not infected will have more protection,” Karan said. “Kids that are infected and don’t know it may not be showing symptoms will be less likely to transmit to those around them.”

Dr. Jeanne Noble, the director of COVID-19 response for UCSF’s Emergency Department, has a different opinion.

“It’s really hard after 18 months of school closures and our kids have really been suffering from a mental health crisis,” Dr. Noble said. “We need to get them back to normal, get them socializing and expressing themselves just as they were in 2019, and masks get in the way of that.”
Here’s what changes to expect with California’s new mask guidance

Dr. Noble points out kids are the lowest risk group in terms of serious illness or death.

“Kids and unvaccinated children has a flu-like level risk from COVID, so we have never masked kids from flu season in the past, that’s just a level of risk that we live with and accept,” Noble said. “That is true for the unvaccinated child. For the vaccinated child, their risk from COVID is much, much lower than it is from influenza and the flu.”

In the meantime, the Newsom administration is working with education partners about masking in schools.

“Try to address their concerns as it relates to community spread and what they anticipate experiencing once those mask requirements are removed,” Newsom said. 

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