California updates back-to-school health guidance

California

STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT – OCTOBER 21: A kindergarten class socially distances while preparing to leave their classroom at Stark Elementary School on October 21, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut. Stamford Public Schools is continuing the fall semester with a hybrid model of in-class and distance learning, occasionally quarantining individual classes when a student or faculty member tests positive for COVID-19. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — The California Department of Public Health on Monday released its updated guidance for K-12 schools for fall 2021.

This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized that kids should get back to in-person instruction.

The guidance, which aligns California school policy with the CDC’s updated recommendations for K-12 schools, emphasizes the following:

  • Vaccination for all eligible individuals to get COVID-19 rates down throughout the community;
  • Continued masking in schools, which enables no minimum physical distancing, allowing all students access to full in-person learning and more targeted quarantine practices;
  • Keeping students in school; and
  • Access to a robust COVID-19 testing program as an additional safety layer

Officials said recent evidence indicates that in-person instruction can happen safely, without minimum physical distancing requirements when other mitigation strategies are fully implemented.

>> VIEW THE UPDATED GUIDANCE HERE <<

The CDC also said students and teachers who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear face masks inside school buildings, but California officials said last week they will suggest keeping mask rules.

However, California officials say it is okay to allow students to be close together, and to not force them to physically distance the recommended three feet that the CDC originally said back in March, when vaccination rates were low and a COVID-19 vaccine had not yet been approved for people younger than 16 years old.

This is due to restraints that physical distancing would put on schools, keeping classrooms from being able to fit all returning students.

“Given California’s science-based approach and the fact that the state’s school facilities can’t accommodate physical distancing, we will align with the CDC by implementing multiple layers of mitigation strategies, including continued masking and robust testing capacity,” said California Health & Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly last week. “Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction.”

The state said students and school staff will also have access to free COVID-19 testing.

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