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Walnut Creek Magazine

Mask On or Mask Off?

Feb 17, 2022 01:05PM ● By Harper Klein

Contra Costa joined ten other Bay Area counties and the state in lifting universal mask mandates for vaccinated people in most indoor public settings on February 16.  “We are able to take this major step because we have laid a strong foundation in good public health protections – especially vaccines and boosters,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, health officer for Contra Costa County.

Educators and families are bracing for the next round of pandemic policy shifts as California officials weigh when to lift mask mandates for K-12 schools — with some demanding that students be allowed to unmask and others urging caution. In a press conference Monday, California’s health secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, said the state is reviewing the data and expects to make an announcement on February 28.

“If supported by the data, we anticipate shifting to a policy that strongly recommends masks in schools, said Ghaly. “We will continue to provide guidance to cities and counties who will ultimately make the call on whether to continue requiring students to wear masks.

California Teachers Association (CTA) President E. Toby Boyd, released a statement in response to Ghaly's update: “CTA remains committed to the safety of students, educators, and families in our local communities. We support the administration’s decision to pause and gather more information to make a science-based decision on school masking that responds to this moment in the pandemic and helps the state transition with an eye on equity. 

We know that masking, strong testing programs, and good school ventilation systems are key to the stability of in-person teaching. We recognize that any changes will disrupt and destabilize school communities. As much as we all want this pandemic to be over, we are not out of the woods yet.”

Walnut Creek School District (WCSD) Governing Board President Aimee Moss said the board has not weighed in on the mask matter yet. “The district is aware that there will be an announcement soon. At this time, we do not know what that will be, and it would be premature to make any comment,” said Moss.  The Board's next scheduled meeting is March 7.

Unvaccinated individuals over age 2 continue to be required to wear masks in all indoor public settings. The majority of businesses we talked to for this story plan to continue requiring staff and patrons to wear masks. 

"Masks are a valuable tool in fighting the spread of Covid. As we shift to an individual decision vs a mandated one, it will require a sense of community and responsibility," said Ghaly. When asked if the pandemic is over, “I won’t predict what happens next, we will continue to watch the data, as we move from a mandate to a recommendation…this is an evolving thing,” he said.



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