Effective Wednesday, the San Diego Unified School District will update its outdoor masking policy allowing students, staff and others on SDUSD school grounds the option of no longer wearing masks outdoors.
Field trips will be permitted to resume for both indoor and outdoor venues, with health and safety guidelines followed. Indoor masking will continue to be required for all students and staff on district property, including schools and central offices, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
"Although we are making significant progress, now is not the time to let our guard down when it comes to COVID-19," Board President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said. "Through a robust commitment to masking and our vaccination policy, we have made San Diego Unified schools some of the safest places in the community with respect to the virus. We want to keep it that way as we continue navigating out of the pandemic and will adjust accordingly."
The district said its positive COVID-19 cases have decreased 56% since the Omicron variant peak, while testing positivity rates among those without symptoms or close contact have fallen below 1%.
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The SDUSD will update only its outdoor protocols as the California Department of Public Health announced this week it will keep its indoor mask mandate in place for schools through at least Feb. 28.
The rule change is something some parents say should have happened a long time ago.
"Too little, too late. San Diego Unified is sort of seeming like they want a gold star for something they should have pulled back a long time ago," said homeschooling mother Melissa Frace with San Diego Rise Up. "As long as I am not the one that is having the final say in what my daughter chooses to participate in, whether it is masks or anything else, this has no change in the conversation whatsoever."
For third-grade parent Josie Moore, the rule change is a big relief.
"I don’t like wearing the mask. I wear it all day at work and I don’t know how [her child] doesn’t complain as much as I do. I complain a lot about the mask," she said.
Parents will next be looking forward to the date the district decides masks aren't needed indoors.
Dr. Howard Taras advises SDUSD on its pandemic policies, and thinks its best to wait until masks can come off indoors at schools.
"I would wait for higher vaccine rates among elementary school children, and prefer to wait until case rates were lower than they are now," he said.
San Diego Unified will reconvene its panel of scientific experts from UC San Diego to begin discussing what conditions would make it advisable to lift the district's indoor mask policy for students and staff.
In addition to consulting with the district's pediatrician and Nursing and Wellness Department, SDUSD remains in regular communication with health professionals at UCSD, the county, and the state regarding the latest guidance on the use of masks indoors.