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SAN DIEGO — San Diego Unified School District announced in a letter Tuesday it is no longer requiring masks to be worn outdoors starting Wednesday, but mask-wearing indoors will remain in place for all students, staff and essential visitors regardless of vaccination status.

“With active COVID-19 cases and positivity rates declining in our schools, we are pleased to announce an update to our outdoor masking policy,” the school district stated in a letter to students and staff. “Students, staff, and any other individuals on school grounds and district central office sites will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors, effective Feb. 16, 2022.”

However, SDUSD officials said they do encourage all individuals to wear masks outdoors when the risk of transmission is high and/or social distancing is not possible. Field trips also will be able to resume for both indoor and outdoor venues, with the proper health and safety guidelines followed.

The announcement from the school district comes as California’s indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people expires on Wednesday.

“This updated guidance does not apply to schools,” the school district said on the state’s ruling. “In fact, the guidance specifies that masks are required for all individuals in indoor settings at schools, regardless of vaccination status.”

With the school district requiring masks indoors, it is recommending staff and students wear surgical masks or higher-level respirators (e.g., N95s, KN95s, KF94s) with good fit.

“Although the surge of Omicron is waning, this highly transmissible variant of COVID-19 is still prevalent in our community,” the school district said. “In the months ahead, other variants of this virus are anticipated to cause new resurgences. The goal of the District is to keep our schools safe from the spread of the COVID-19 virus. No student, parent or staff member should feel that coming to school increases the likelihood of getting COVID-19. Wearing masks indoors is the surest way to achieve that goal.”

SDUSD informed students and staff that mask-wearing can be relaxed “when either serious health risks of COVID-19 disease are negligible and/or community case rates are such that contracting this virus in a school setting is extremely unlikely.” The school district said they will seek the insight of medical experts at UC San Diego in determining an appropriate time to lift indoor masking.