SAN DIEGO – Some local parents are pushing back on new California guidelines which require students to wear masks indoors when they return to the classroom this year.
Friday’s announcement by the California Health and Human Services Agency came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines, saying masks aren’t necessary for vaccinated teachers and students inside school buildings. State officials argue masking is a “simple and effective intervention” that does not interfere with offering in-person instruction.
The decision already has led to some confusion as well as frustration among parents.
“The Department of Public Health decided to create its own rules for California’s kids, which were even more strict on masks in schools than the CDC guidelines,” said June Cutter, a parent and Republican politician who was defeated in her bid to unseat incumbent California Assemblyman Brian Maienschein last year.
The state guidelines apply to all K-12 children. According to Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s health secretary, the decision was made because not all schools can provide space for kids to remain at least three feet apart.
“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,” Ghaly said in a statement last week.
But Cutter argues that the guidelines don’t take into account the ways in which children differ. Instead, she says whether a child wears a mask should be a parental decision, not a mandate from the state and that a “one size fits all” approach is not the solution.
“It doesn’t take into account kids who really shouldn’t be in masks or can’t be, including those with developmental disabilities and also those who are hearing impaired which we don’t talk about enough,” she said.
Advocacy groups including Let Them Breathe say they will keep fighting to change the state’s guidelines.
“We do not feel that that is best for our kids, because at this point our youngest kids would be the ones that are all masked in school,” Let Them Breathe founder Sharon McKeeman said. “They’re not at risk from COVID. The science says they’re not super spreaders and we know that they are feeling those detrimental physical and mental health effects the greatest.”