SAN DIEGO — County education officials are handing out hundreds of thousands of the more-protective N95 masks to local schools, and the state says millions more are on the way.
As of Wednesday morning, the San Diego County Office of Education had received 2 million of a promised 8 million masks from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration. More would arrive soon, an SDCOE spokesperson said, but they had not received a specific delivery date.
If all 8 million arrive, the office says it will have enough to give 10 masks to each student and staff member at local public, charter and private schools.
School districts and principals have already started picking up the masks and will distribute them on campus based on their needs, officials said. That means parents will go through their kids’ teachers and principals to receive the masks once they’re available — families cannot go to the SDCOE headquarters to pick up masks individually.
The first batch of 2 million masks were all in adult sizes, so they will go to staff members and students in grades 7 through 12. The remaining 6 million will include child-sized masks along with more for adults, the county spokesperson said Wednesday.
The upgraded masks arrive amid another shift in public health guidance for combatting the coronavirus pandemic. During a surge of the highly contagious omicron variant, the Centers for Disease Control updated its mask guidance last week to recommend people wear the higher-quality N95 and KN95 masks instead of cloth or surgical ones.
Early in the pandemic, public health officials discouraged the use of such masks for the general public out of concern that there wouldn’t be enough supply for medical workers. That is no longer a concern, and the CDC says the masks provide the best protection against COVID-19.
Also Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s administration announced it would make 400 million N95 masks freely available at pharmacies and community clinics around the country.