What are California’s new COVID-19 rules for public schools?

The California Department of Public Health updated its coronavirus rules for public schools on Monday.

The new rules apply recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with some modifications.

Masks still required but not distancing

All teachers and students must wear masks while indoors. But they don’t have to stay at least 3 feet away from each other.

The rules’ stated goal is to make sure as many students can attend full-time, in-person instruction as possible. State officials worried some schools would have had trouble accommodating all of their students with the physical distancing rule. So they got rid of it, in exchange for everyone wearing a mask.

Initially, the state said school districts should send students home if they refused to wear a mask. But Monday evening, the department posted a tweet saying it would clarify its rules so school districts could make their own decisions about enforcing the mask rules.

State officials have promised to review these rules, and possibly change them, by Nov. 1.

Exposed to the virus? No problem

The rules say students who are exposed to someone who has the virus don’t have to stay home for 10 days to quarantine. They can continue to attend class if they don’t have symptoms and if they keep wearing a mask and are tested twice a week for 10 days. But they can’t participate in sports or other extracurricular activities during that period.

Lunch outside

Schools should still enforce physical distancing during lunch. The state says schools should have students eat outside as much as possible.

Limit visitors

The state says schools should limit nonessential visitors, including volunteers, who are not fully vaccinated.

Vaccines encouraged, not required

The state says vaccination “is strongly recommended” for everyone eligible. Right now, that’s anyone 12 and older. But the state doesn’t say it’s required.

Will things be different locally?

How exactly local school districts including the Long Beach Unified School District will enforce or manage the new rules isn’t entirely clear yet.

In a statement this week, LBUSD spokesman Christ Eftychiou reiterated that the plan is to have “most of our students” return for in-person learning when the school year begins on Aug. 31, but there will be an online option for families who opt out.

“This week has shown that the masking guidance can shift quickly,” he said. “Given that we’re still 48 days out from our first day of school, we’ll need to continue monitoring the guidance and consulting with our local health department before ironing out further details.”

State mandates masks for students, but how LBUSD will enforce that rule remains murky

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