Ana Zavala teaching a kindergarten class at Washington Elementary School last month in Lynwood.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Tomorrow marks a pandemic milestone: California will lift its classroom mask mandate.
The decision, made jointly with Oregon and Washington, means that students in the Golden State will be able to attend class without a mask for the first time since Covid-19 shutdowns began two years ago. The mandate will be lifted after 11:59 p.m. on Friday.
But, as is often the case with Covid-19 rules, the reality is not quite that black and white.
In lifting the statewide requirement, California officials allowed counties, districts and even individual schools to maintain mask mandates if they chose. New coronavirus cases have plummeted in California in recent weeks, but there are still regions where infection numbers have flatlined or are rising.
So far, most school officials have chosen to follow the state’s lead and will not require masks after Friday. Some districts, especially in rural pockets, had already been defying mask mandates.
But a few districts have opted not to let students and teachers go mask-free yet. Some have announced they will instead do so next month, or will re-evaluate at a later date.
So children at your neighborhood school may still be wearing masks in their classroom for the foreseeable future.
These are some of those districts (in order of student enrollment):
Los Angeles Unified: Officials who oversee the district, the state’s largest and the nation’s second-largest, are still deciding whether to lift its indoor mask mandate. As of Wednesday, it appears the requirement will remain in effect after this week.
San Diego Unified: Students and staff members will be allowed to be on campus without masks starting on April 4, when they return from spring break, according to the district’s website.
San Francisco Unified: The district will lift its masking policy at middle and high schools after March 11. But the requirement will not be dropped at elementary schools until April 2, when students return from spring break.
Sacramento City Unified: In a meeting this week, the district’s board opted to keep the district’s mask mandate in place until at least April 18.
Oakland Unified: Officials said they would decide whether to lift their mask mandate after receiving guidance from Alameda County. The county announced last week that it would allow districts to make masking optional, but Oakland school officials have not yet made a decision.
School mask mandates have become especially contentious in recent months, as California parents watched the Omicron variant retreat. New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts and other states have already lifted similar requirements.
Still, according to a U.C. Berkeley poll last month, 61 percent of California parents support requiring students and teachers to wear masks in school. (It’s possible that approval for mask mandates has fallen since then as case numbers have dropped.)
Students and teachers who want to keep masks on after Friday can do so, according to the state policy. In fact, in his announcement about the change, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that masks remain “strongly recommended.”
Tell us how you feel about the ending of school mask requirements. If you’d like to share your thoughts, you can fill out this form here. We may use your response in an upcoming newsletter.
The New York Times coronavirus newsletter interviewed Shawn Hubler, a correspondent based in Sacramento, about California’s move to endemicity.
A cluster of new studies show that about a third of children in the youngest grades are missing reading benchmarks.
In the past 20 years, enrollment in Los Angeles Unified has dropped by 40 percent. Officials must decide which schools to close, The Los Angeles Times reports.
If you read one story, make it this
Ukrainians in the United States are heading to the front lines: “I’ll do whatever they ask.”
The rest of the news
Tailpipe rules: The Biden administration restored California’s authority to set auto pollution rules that are tighter than federal standards, a potent climate policy that had been stripped away by President Donald J. Trump.
CalFresh: Offices in charge of administering CalFresh monthly food benefits are understaffed and overwhelmed, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Ukraine: Read Times articles about the war’s effects on gas prices and how a playground for the rich could undermine sanctions on Russian oligarchs.
Slithery smuggler: The U.S. Border Patrol stopped a man with 52 live lizards and snakes hidden in his clothing at the San Ysidro border crossing, The Associated Press reports.
Trucking oil rejected: A bid by Exxon Mobil to restart offshore oil wells that were shut down in 2015 was rejected by Santa Barbara County, The Associated Press reports.
Excessive force: A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer who threw a driver to the ground at a crossing in Imperial County was convicted Wednesday of using unreasonable force, The Associated Press reports.
Gone phishing: The city of Fresno lost $400,000 to an electronic phishing scam in 2020, The Modesto Bee reports.
Berkeley v. Berkeley: The state’s strict environmental laws are being weaponized in lawsuits against the University of California, Berkeley, which is under pressure to admit more and more students.
Fuel up: Gas prices at a station in Mendocino reached $8.64 on Wednesday, The Chico Enterprise-Record reports.
What we’re eating
How to make chili.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from John Huey, who recommends Laguna Beach in Orange County:
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
And before you go, some good news
Jackson Thomas Blaisdell and Radha Jain first met in an economics class at Stanford University. After exchanging numbers at a party, they began dating in late 2015.
But after nearly five years as a couple — and a stint living together during Covid-19 shutdowns — the couple parted ways in August 2020. They didn’t speak for a year.
The space gave them clarity about how they felt about each other, the couple told The Times.
When they ultimately reconnected, and Blaisdell saw Jain for the first time, “It was really just the feeling of coming home,” he said.
“It was because of that time apart, I think, that’s what made us so confident that this is what we want for the rest of our lives,” she said.
The two married this year.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Worst possible score on a test (4 letters).
Briana Scalia and Geordon Wollner contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].