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School mask requirements likely to remain in place into 2022, state public health officials say

California's health secretary points to flu season as one reason to maintain protections

First grader Baiyan gets some hand sanitizer after eating a snack at Herbert Hoover Elementary School in Palo Alto on Oct. 12, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

State public health officials said Wednesday that indoor mask requirements in schools are likely to remain in place into 2022, but could be modified as more students get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a briefing on the state's vaccination efforts, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said they expect COVID-19 cases and transmission rates to fluctuate throughout the fall and winter as they did one year ago, albeit to a lesser degree because 86.8% of the state's eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose.

In addition, vaccinations for children ages 5-11 are unlikely to receive emergency authorization from federal and state regulators until late next week.

Ghaly said the state plans to "look at some of the same things that we've laid out in prior guidance in school messaging — everything from levels of community transmission, vaccine rates — and similarly looking to be able to move in a direction of loosening some of the restrictions and requirements as appropriate."

How quickly the state's schools achieve high vaccination rates among students is a matter of when, not if, as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Oct. 1 that the state will add the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person once the shots receive full federal approval for school-age children.

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Currently, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received full federal approval, and only among people ages 16 and up, while children ages 12-15 remain eligible under emergency authorization.

In announcing the requirement earlier this month, Newsom said it will take effect at the beginning of the school term following the vaccine's full approval by the Food and Drug Administration and estimated that could be either Jan. 1 or July 1, 2022.

On Wednesday, Ghaly said the latter appears more likely.

"We don't have any more clarity on when the full FDA approval will be as we inch closer to the end of this year," he said. "And given the period of time that's required, it is looking like full approval may not happen in this calendar year.

"Then, just like we have with other pediatric vaccine requirements in schools, the COVID vaccine requirement would be treated the same way," Ghaly continued. "This is not a requirement for enrollment, this is a requirement to be on campus, in person for educational activities."

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In keeping mask requirements in schools through at least the end of the year, Ghaly also pointed to the start of flu season as another reason to maintain protections.

He noted that, as was the case last year, people gathering indoors because of colder winter weather and the upcoming holidays could once again strain health care systems in some parts of the state, particularly if this year's flu strain is more prevalent without a statewide stay-at-home order and mask mandate in place.

And while the state's seven-day average COVID-19 positive test rate sits at just 1.9%, Wednesday's positivity rate was slightly higher at 2.2%, pointing to a potential plateau or even start of an uptick in cases.

"Yes, we have vaccines — highly effective, free, safe vaccines — that have wrapped a blanket of protection around Californians in a big way," Ghaly said. "But we also have an open economy, we have fewer public health measures in place and we know that there's other respiratory viruses that are beginning to circulate — the flu, in other words — impacting both young people and adults."

Ghaly and Pan both encouraged residents who have yet to do so to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine, which are safe to receive during the same appointment.

Likewise, both officials urged fully vaccinated residents to get a COVID-19 booster vaccination if they are eligible.

Booster vaccines are currently available for a myriad of demographics, including people ages 65 and up, adults with serious health conditions, people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their job and immunocompromised people.

Information about how and where to get COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be found at myturn.ca.gov.

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School mask requirements likely to remain in place into 2022, state public health officials say

California's health secretary points to flu season as one reason to maintain protections

by Eli Walsh / Bay City News Foundation /

Uploaded: Thu, Oct 28, 2021, 7:55 am

State public health officials said Wednesday that indoor mask requirements in schools are likely to remain in place into 2022, but could be modified as more students get vaccinated against COVID-19.

In a briefing on the state's vaccination efforts, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said they expect COVID-19 cases and transmission rates to fluctuate throughout the fall and winter as they did one year ago, albeit to a lesser degree because 86.8% of the state's eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose.

In addition, vaccinations for children ages 5-11 are unlikely to receive emergency authorization from federal and state regulators until late next week.

Ghaly said the state plans to "look at some of the same things that we've laid out in prior guidance in school messaging — everything from levels of community transmission, vaccine rates — and similarly looking to be able to move in a direction of loosening some of the restrictions and requirements as appropriate."

How quickly the state's schools achieve high vaccination rates among students is a matter of when, not if, as Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Oct. 1 that the state will add the COVID-19 vaccine to its list of vaccinations required to attend school in-person once the shots receive full federal approval for school-age children.

Currently, only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has received full federal approval, and only among people ages 16 and up, while children ages 12-15 remain eligible under emergency authorization.

In announcing the requirement earlier this month, Newsom said it will take effect at the beginning of the school term following the vaccine's full approval by the Food and Drug Administration and estimated that could be either Jan. 1 or July 1, 2022.

On Wednesday, Ghaly said the latter appears more likely.

"We don't have any more clarity on when the full FDA approval will be as we inch closer to the end of this year," he said. "And given the period of time that's required, it is looking like full approval may not happen in this calendar year.

"Then, just like we have with other pediatric vaccine requirements in schools, the COVID vaccine requirement would be treated the same way," Ghaly continued. "This is not a requirement for enrollment, this is a requirement to be on campus, in person for educational activities."

In keeping mask requirements in schools through at least the end of the year, Ghaly also pointed to the start of flu season as another reason to maintain protections.

He noted that, as was the case last year, people gathering indoors because of colder winter weather and the upcoming holidays could once again strain health care systems in some parts of the state, particularly if this year's flu strain is more prevalent without a statewide stay-at-home order and mask mandate in place.

And while the state's seven-day average COVID-19 positive test rate sits at just 1.9%, Wednesday's positivity rate was slightly higher at 2.2%, pointing to a potential plateau or even start of an uptick in cases.

"Yes, we have vaccines — highly effective, free, safe vaccines — that have wrapped a blanket of protection around Californians in a big way," Ghaly said. "But we also have an open economy, we have fewer public health measures in place and we know that there's other respiratory viruses that are beginning to circulate — the flu, in other words — impacting both young people and adults."

Ghaly and Pan both encouraged residents who have yet to do so to get both a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine, which are safe to receive during the same appointment.

Likewise, both officials urged fully vaccinated residents to get a COVID-19 booster vaccination if they are eligible.

Booster vaccines are currently available for a myriad of demographics, including people ages 65 and up, adults with serious health conditions, people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 due to their job and immunocompromised people.

Information about how and where to get COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be found at myturn.ca.gov.

Comments

Forever Name
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2021 at 12:34 pm
Forever Name, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2021 at 12:34 pm

@ Ghaly: "In keeping mask requirements in schools through at least the end of the year, Ghaly also pointed to the start of flu season as another reason to maintain protections."

Since when have we required kids, who need all the necessary facial cues in school to communicate, learn, and have proper social interactions, to wear masks for the flu? OMG. ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!!!!

Totally predictable. First it was covid. Next it's the flu. Then it will be colds. = Masks Forever. No wonder people are escaping CA in droves. Ghaly keeping masks for the flu is inane and not supported in any way by the data. Ghaly and Cody NEED TO GO!!! We are no longer in a state of emergency. County Supervisors, our elected officials, should be governing, not authoritarian Health Directors like Cody and Ghaly who are not even following science and are myopically focused on masks. Kids in the rest of the U.S. (if you've traveled lately you would see) do not wear masks in school. Kids on the entire continente of Europe (!) do not wear masks in school. The UK never had their kids wear masks in school and still don't. They all think we are crazy with our masks here. Saying we should keep masks for the flu is totally absurd.


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Oct 29, 2021 at 12:05 am
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2021 at 12:05 am

"Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly and state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said that forcing kids to wear masks perpetually will reduce their risk of covid from *almost* zero to *nearly* zero, while promoting the beneficial side effect of deindividuation during childhood development."


Forever Name
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2021 at 12:32 pm
Forever Name, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2021 at 12:32 pm

@ Jane. Thank you for sharing that additional insane info from Ghaly. I would love to see where that came from so I can share it far and wide. If you could provide a link I would appreciate it. Or maybe you were paraphrasing the ridiculousness of our Health Directors.

Ironic that the Univ Mich Dr. Eisenberg, Chair of the Epidemiology Dept. said that the *spike* in flu is actually because kids have been isolated (which includes masks) and immune systems are weakened! Yet Cody and Ghaly want to continue masking school kids even AFTER being vaccinated! Total insanity.

"Blue Flu has taken over Univ Mich: Why is everyone sick?"
"Dr. Joseph Eisenberg, U-M professor and chair of the epidemiology department and public health expert, to get answers as to what these symptoms could possibly be from....Some studies suggest that quarantine and isolation lead to a weakened immune system. Eisenberg said this could be the BIGGEST explanation as to why so many students are experiencing flu-like symptoms."
Web Link


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 29, 2021 at 2:52 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2021 at 2:52 pm

“In keeping mask requirements in schools through at least the end of the year, Ghaly also pointed to the start of flu season as another reason to maintain protections.“

Masks on or no school! Those are the rules. Regardless of what you think, masks this, immune system that, you are not the public health experts. You will respect the mask mandates and have respect for everyone’s health and safety until the pandemic is over. If you have kids and aren’t happy with masking, you have an option to homeschool and I believe there is also an “independent study” option which allows students to not be in person.

Just because one doctor, in this case Dr. Eisenberg, says the “immune systems are weakened,” doesn’t mean it’s agreed upon by the medical community. That’s just a doctor that you found that fits your own “no masks in schools”narrative.

Finally, stop with the silly Europe comparisons already. Any quick search will show how the virus is currently still ripping through schools in the UK and those students having constant disruption to their education with infections and quarantine. That doesn’t seem to be happening as much in the Bay Area. Do you know why? Masking and a high uptake in vaccinations. Regardless, this is why there are mandates. So simple minded people that think their “research is correct” aren’t in charge of making difficult decisions that they aren’t capable of making.

Thanks to Ghaly and Cody(you don’t need to go anywhere!!!) for continuing to help make schools safer for students and staff, in spite of the very small minority of the overly opinionated that are on the wrong side of this issue and being loud about it. Fortunately, a majority of Californians do not think like those in Alabama. Schools and students are slowly going back to normal as we keep progressing out of this pandemic.




SamuelL.
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Oct 29, 2021 at 3:33 pm
SamuelL., Meadow Park
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2021 at 3:33 pm

I'm pretty sure the concern over the flu is that if you have the flu and THEN COVID, you're immune system will be already compromised and unable
to fight off the deadly Covid virus.

How about PAUSD set up a new "choice" school just for those who don't want the vaccine or wear masks inside. They can call it Freedom Charter, or PS Chance.

But, last I heard, parents do have a choice. There are plenty of other schools not mandating masks. That's the beautiful thing about this country. You have a choice.


Forever Name
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 29, 2021 at 4:32 pm
Forever Name, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2021 at 4:32 pm

@ The Voice of Palo Alto: "stop with the silly Europe comparisons already".

Hysterical. Silly Europe and UK. (And the rest of the US who also does not wear masks in schools). Those "silly" entire continents, and countries (and U.S. states), and all their doctors and medical professionals and educators and politicians and public health officers couldn't possibly know as much as Cody by not wearing masks in school. (Eyeball roll of the century). Typical Palo Alto hubris.

@Samuel: The POINT of vaccines, which I support and have, is so we no longer have to wear masks indoors. In terms of choice, anyone who wants is welcome to get a vaccine and continue to wear masks for the rest of your life. But that doesn't mean everyone else who is educated on the facts, and the benefits of vaccines, and the downsides of masks in schools, must wear masks for the rest of their lives.


SamuelL.
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Oct 29, 2021 at 6:19 pm
SamuelL., Meadow Park
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2021 at 6:19 pm

@Forever - But you must wear a mask inside for as long as the county/state/etc say that you do.

I'm not a fan of masks in general. When I travel I only wear one if it's required by local mandate. It's not a big ask especially since most of the country is under 70% vaccination rate.


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