Los Angeles Unified will waive outdoor mask requirement next week
Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
Starting next week, Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) students will be able to remove their masks when outdoors on campus for the first time since face-to-face classes resumed 10 months ago.
Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announced the decision on Friday, a day after widely hinting that the decision would come “before the end of the week.”
“In alignment with the Department of Public Health and with guidance from our chief medical officer and health partners, the wearing of masks outdoors will be optional for all individuals in Los Angeles Unified schools beginning February 22. ”, Carvalho said in a statement posted on social media.
Because Monday is a holiday, the new policy will officially go into effect for students and staff on Tuesday. But those participating in athletics on Monday can remove their masks while outside, Carvalho said.
LAUSD has kept some of the strictest COVID-19 safety protocols in the country. Until the recent surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, wearing masks outdoors had been removed as a requirement for K-12 schools in Los Angeles County. But LAUSD was among the districts that resumed that safety measure as new Covid cases increased due to the Omicron variant.
Parents anxious for their children to stop wearing masks have criticized the nation’s second-largest school system for not acting immediately when it was possible to eliminate their outdoor use as of Wednesday. But on Thursday Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer defended school systems that chose to move more slowly.
“Obviously this works best in places where students won’t be outside in crowded situations,” Ferrer said at a press conference. “In some districts, that is not possible.” Those districts will continue to mask outdoors “until rates drop even further. We will be behind those districts 100%,” she added.
In California, an indoor mask mandate in schools remains in effect until at least February 28. Los Angeles County is likely to keep the requirement longer based on its assessment of local health conditions.
On Thursday, Ferrer estimated that the county’s broad indoor mask mandate could be eased by the end of March, if current projections of the pandemic prove accurate.
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