With the start of school less than three weeks away for the Long Beach Unified School District, parents have been asking what on-campus COVID-19 protocols will look like for the fall. The short answer is they’ll look a lot like they did at the conclusion of last school year.

LBUSD spokesperson Chris Eftychiou confirmed this week that the district will not require masks for students or employees to begin the school year.

“Similar to LBUSD’s protocol at the end of last school year, masks currently are recommended but not required for indoor activities at LBUSD schools,” he said. “Other precautions such as staying home when ill, frequent hand washing, and COVID testing when appropriate, will apply.”

The questions about whether students would have to mask up were heightened last month because Los Angeles County recently flirted with reinstituting a universal indoor mask mandate when COVID-19 numbers passed the automatic trigger point the health department had set. Ultimately though, they backed away without putting the rules in place, and COVID cases began to decline.

Even if LA County had gone with the mandate, it wouldn’t have affected LBUSD schools. The Long Beach Health Department had said it would not institute a mask mandate even if the county did, a break from the normal lockstep they kept in the first two years of the pandemic.

Eftychiou confirmed that the LBUSD would “defer” to the Long Beach Health Department in any policy split between the county and city. For now, though, they’re in alignment.

The county this week stressed its mask recommendation, saying that over 13,000 children aged 5-17 were confirmed COVID-19 cases over the last 30 days and pointing out that more than 1,800 children in the county have been hospitalized with COVID-19 to date.

The county also urged parents to get their students vaccinated, with children 12-17 “four times more likely to be hospitalized than vaccinated children in the same age group.”

According to the county, 79% of school-age children 12-17 years old are vaccinated, but only 35% of children aged 5-11 are.

Long Beach’s full health order is available here. The portion concerning masking in schools reads:

“Masking will continue to be strongly recommended, but no longer required, in most indoor settings and in K-12 Schools or childcare facilities. Masking will continue to be required for all persons, regardless of vaccination status, in higher transmission risk settings within the City, like on public transit and in transportation hubs, all healthcare settings, correctional facilities and detention centers, emergency shelters, cooling and heating centers, homeless shelters, and long-term care settings and adult and senior care centers.”

Long Beach says it won’t reinstate indoor mask mandate even if LA County does