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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – While the indoor mask mandate will soon lift for vaccinated people in San Diego County, face coverings will still be required for schoolchildren.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to announce new guidance for schools in the near future that could change that policy, however.

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

At a news conference Wednesday, Newsom announced masks are still required at schools due to low vaccinations. About 28% of the state’s 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 Newsom administration says it is working with education partners to chart the path forward for 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. The governor says health officials will outline their revised recommendation on school mask-wearing in the coming days.

San Diego County leaders will be watching closely. This week, they voted to ask the state Department of Public Health for a “safe and responsible path” toward phasing out pandemic-related mask requirements for school children.

While they await word from the government, 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, 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. Karan said. 

Dr. Jeanne Noble, the director of COVID 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. 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,” Dr. Noble said. 

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. 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,” Dr. Noble said.