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California reverses policy that maskless children be banned from entering public schools, ending mandate hours after it began

Just hours after announcing the new policy on Monday, the California Department of Public Health issued an “update,” saying, “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.”

The Los Angeles Times reported, citing a spokesman for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, that the directive to exclude students who refuse to wear masks will be removed from the policy, allowing local districts to decide how to enforce their Covid-19 precautions. Masks are still mandated indoors.

Monday’s controversial order for the upcoming school year was to be enforced regardless of whether the recalcitrant student or teacher has been vaccinated against the virus. In the initial version of the state guidance, children were to be offered off-campus educational opportunities if they refused to obey the mask rule.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced updated guidance last Friday advising that students and school employees who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks. The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization in May for the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to be administered to children as young as 12.

Dozens of US states have no mask mandate for public schools, and eight have prohibited local districts from imposing such orders, according to Burbio.com, which tracks school reopenings and pandemic policies. California is among nine states that have mask requirements for all students, while three others apply their mandates only to unvaccinated individuals.

Los Angeles schools are scheduled to fully reopen for the first time in the fall, after the local teachers union resisted efforts by district officials to resume in-person classes for months. Four families sued United Teachers Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District earlier this year, alleging that they had failed their duty to serve the interests of students by depriving them of in-person learning.

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