Mask Mandate to Expire, But Not for Schools

People who are vaccinated will not have to wear masks in most indoor places starting Feb. 16, but masks still will be required for students

NBC Universal, Inc.

California is one of five states to announce this week that it will get rid of its mask mandate -- Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon announced Monday they are also lifting mandates requiring people to wear masks indoors.

But there is one key difference. California is lifting its general mask mandate, but keeping the requirement in place for children at school.

The California mask mandate is set to expire on Feb. 15. NBC 7's Madison Weil explains.

"I absolutely feel it’s way too soon," said parent Kristine Alvarez, who thinks the mandate for everyone to wear a mask indoors should remain. California will allow the mask mandate for vaccinated people in (most) indoor settings to expire Feb. 15.

"It’s people's opinions. If they want to wear it, wear it. It’s their choice," said parent Adilene Alvarez when asked about the move to let the general mandate expire.  

But the mask mandate is not lifted for all. Masks will still be required indoors at schools for students K-12, as well as those in childcare, according to the California Department of Public Health. A group, including some doctors in the Bay area, is pushing back.

"We are asking for a quick pivot for kids when our county and state health officials have decided it is time to lift the mask mandate," said UCSF emergency room physician Jean Noble. She is among those who started a Change.Org petition addressed to the governor and state health officials asking that the mask mandate be lifted for students too.

"What we would like to see is that if that’s not going to be extended for adults, then that is also the moment that we lift the mask mandate for our kids," Noble said.

UCSD professor of pediatrics Dr. Howard Taras, who also has been a consultant to school districts during the pandemic, says it is too soon to lift the mandate.

"What we need to do is have very high rates of vaccination in our schools, up to 90%, and then I believe what they’re asking for is sensible," he said.

Back to the parents. 

Alvarez said, "They’re little kids, so they don’t know what’s going on in the world now, so it’s better for them not to wear (masks).” 

Traugott said, "Having a preschooler in the district, I feel secure getting them tested. I feel it’s very important for everyone’s safety to be able to stay masked indoors."

San Diego Unified School District Trustee Richard Barrera wrote in a text that districts must at least follow the guidance from the CDPH, but districts can make the guidelines more restrictive if they choose to do so. In San Diego Unified, for instance, students must wear their masks outdoors as well as indoors.

"If we get guidance from our UCSD team at some point to relax the outdoor mandate, we will; but that would be very unlikely to happen before spring break," Barrera said.

Contact Us