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SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – California officials on Monday announced no changes would be made to the mask mandate for schoolchildren.

In a press conference, California’s health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the state will reassess the situation on Feb. 28.

“Based on our data… it’s reasonable that we’re getting to a place where we can relax the statewide masking requirement. We will today not make a change. There will be no change on the masking requirement,” Dr. Ghaly said in part.

“Two weeks from now… we’re gonna look at information on case rates confirm what we believe is going to happen.. that case numbers will continue to come down, hospitalizations come down, both adult and pediatric will come down, and we’re watching vaccination rates.”

Dr. Ghaly said other factors officials will consider when reassessing the mask mandate include observing trends around the U.S. and world, “ensuring we aren’t seeing upticks in increases down the road.”

“We anticipate being able to share what the next period of time will look like, and with some specificity give a date when the masking requirement will move to a recommendation.”

At a press conference last week, Governor Gavin Newsom announced masks are still required at schools due to low vaccinations – About 28 percent in 5 to 11-year-olds received the COVID 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. 

The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. While still considered a pandemic, health experts have been expecting the coronavirus to eventually become endemic.

Newsom imposed the nation’s first statewide stay-home order that largely shut down the most populous state’s economy in the early months of the pandemic, followed by occupancy, masking and vaccination requirements that California is only now beginning to ease.

Nearly 74% of Californians age 5 and up are fully vaccinated and another nearly 9% are partially vaccinated. About 55% have had booster shots.

In San Diego County, Lakeside school board member Andrew Hayes, who is part of a group called School Board Members for Local Control, is asking the state to slow local school districts to make the call when it comes to masking. 

“There are immunocompromised folks, there are all these things we need to take into account, but that should be at the local level because we know our students and staff better,” Hayes said. “And so we as a board and we as a district could figure out a way to make sure that everyone is safe, kids are staying in the classroom and they’re learning.”
The California Teachers Association President released a statement on Monday on support of the state’s decision. 

“We know that masking, strong testing programs and having good school ventilation systems in place have been key to ensuring the stability of in-person teaching and learning. We recognize that any changes will disrupt and destabilize school communities.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.