SAN DIEGO – The superintendents of three North County school districts called on state public health officials this week to allow fully vaccinated individuals to choose whether to wear a face covering indoors on campuses when classes resume.
In a joint letter dated Wednesday, leaders from the Carlsbad Unified, Poway Unified and Vista Unified school districts encouraged officials to let them enforce guidance issued earlier this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They say CDC guidance on masking is preferable to California’s “more restrictive” indoor mask mandate for all students and staff regardless of vaccination status.
“The CDC recommends that schools work with local public health officials to determine the prevention strategies needed in their area by monitoring levels of community transmission and local vaccine coverage,” superintendents Ben Churchill, Marian Phelps and Matt Doyle wrote in the letter.
They added: “Based on information available on state and county webpages today, the County of San Diego currently has high levels of local vaccine coverage and low levels of community transmission.”
The letter comes as many municipalities nationwide are reporting rises in COVID-19 case rates, leading some, including Los Angeles County, to reimplement indoor mask mandates, including for those who are fully vaccinated. In San Diego County, officials said they will continue following state guidance on masking — allowing vaccinated residents to go maskless, except for in limited settings — while also encouraging more residents to get vaccinated.
On Friday, county public health officials reported 579 new COVID-19 cases, now the ninth consecutive day of 200 or more infections. In total, San Diego County has tallied more than 286,000 cases and 3,786 deaths.
District leaders say they have worked “tirelessly” for more than a year “to implement a layered approach to virus transmission mitigation and prevention.” According to the districts, those efforts include establishing safe reopening plans, placing a focus on contact tracing and quarantining and adding filtration devices and upgraded ventilation systems.
“While it is understood that those under 12 must wear masks indoors in most settings at this time based on current CDPH guidance (as they are not currently eligible to be vaccinated), it is hoped that as soon as the vaccine is available for all ages that the option to go without face coverings indoors will also be extended to all ages based on vaccination status,” they wrote.
The new school year is fast approaching for all three districts.
Students are scheduled to return to Carlsbad Unified classrooms Aug. 24 with teachers due to report back Aug. 19. The first day for Poway Unified and Vista Unified students is Aug. 18 with teachers from both districts returning Aug. 16.