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Citing limitations of schools to accommodate physical distancing, state officials announced Friday that California will continue to require masks indoors at schools.

The announcement came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines, saying vaccinated teachers and students don’t need to wear masks inside school buildings.

California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said students should not have to worry about being treated different for being unvaccinated.

“Masking is a simple and effective intervention that does not interfere with offering full in-person instruction,” Ghaly said in a statement. “At the outset of the new year, students should be able to walk into school without worrying about whether they will feel different or singled out for being vaccinated or unvaccinated – treating all kids the same will support a calm and supportive school environment.”

State officials said schools will be able to safely open for full in-person instruction by prioritizing masking, adding that this aligns with CDC guidance that says masking is important indoors when it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least 3 feet.

The state also put an emphasis on coronavirus testing, with every school having access to free testing. Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are available to children as young as 12.

Advocates for mask-choice plan to file a lawsuit in the near future, very similar to the one that fought to get kids back in school this past spring.

“Our youngest kids would be the ones that are all masked in school,” said Sharon McKeeman, founder of “Let Them Breathe. “They’re not at risk for COVID. The science says they’re not super spreaders, and we know that they are feeling those detrimental physical and mental health affects the greatest even over that the older kids.”

Let Them Breathe is holding an event called “Smilefest” with speakers and more on the topic of mask-choice Saturday at The Mission Church in Carlsbad from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.