UPDATED (7/14/2021 at 12:19 a.m. EST):
California has apparently altered the COVID-19 guidance it initially released regarding K-12 schools.
The California Department of Public health issued the following tweet on Monday: "UPDATE: California's school guidance will be clarified regarding masking enforcement, recognizing local schools' experience in keeping students and educators safe while ensuring schools fully reopen for in-person instruction."
Alex Stack, a spokesperson for Gov. Gavin Newsom, said the guidance has been updated:
"The original wording was made in error," Stack said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "The guidance was updated to allow for schools to continue enforcing the mask mandate as they have done for the past year while also being able to provide independent study options for students who refuse to wear a mask."
The CDPH's guidelines as currently posted state: "Consistent with guidance from the 2020-21 school year, schools must develop and implement local protocols to enforce the mask requirements. Additionally, schools should offer alternative educational opportunities for students who are excluded from campus because they will not wear a face covering. Note: Public schools should be aware of the requirements in AB 130 to offer independent study programs for the 2021-22 school year."
Original Story Below:
As the new school year approaches, the state of California plans to bar K-12 students who refuse to wear face masks from participating in on-campus learning.
While face masks will be optional outdoors, they will be mandatory indoors, according to California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
"K-12 students are required to mask indoors, with exemptions per CDPH face mask guidance. Adults in K-12 school settings are required to mask when sharing indoor spaces with students," according to the department. "Persons exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition, must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.
"In order to comply with this guidance, schools must exclude students from campus if they are not exempt from wearing a face covering under CDPH guidelines and refuse to wear one provided by the school," according to the department.
The state's guidance says that schools must provide alternative learning opportunities for students who are blocked from campus because they will not sport a face covering.
"CDPH will continue to assess conditions on an ongoing basis, and will determine no later than November 1, 2021, whether to update mask requirements or recommendations," the department noted.
The approaching school year comes amid ongoing coronavirus concerns in the U.S. and abroad.
So far, 48% of the total U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 55.5% of the population has received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For the U.S. population demographic consisting of those 12 and older, 56.2% of people within that age bracket have been fully vaccinated while 64.9% have received at least a single dose, the CDC reports.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines each require two shots, while Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine only involves one shot. Currently in the U.S., the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may be administered to people ages 12 and older, while the other vaccines may be utilized to inoculate those 18 and older.
The U.S. has seen more than 33 million COVID-19 cases so far and more than 607,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.