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San Diego Unified won’t require masks at schools for now

Point Loma High School is one of the nine San Diego Unified School District campuses in the Point Loma-Ocean Beach area.
(Courtesy of San Diego Unified School District)

The San Diego Unified School District will not require masks throughout the district when the new school year starts Monday, Aug. 29, signaling a retreat from COVID-19 rules the district established a month ago.

The school system, which includes nine public schools in Point Loma and Ocean Beach, will no longer require masks across all schools whenever San Diego County has high community levels of COVID-19 activity, as defined by federal guidelines. San Diego Unified had established that rule in mid-July, when the county’s COVID levels were on the rise.

The COVID surge has since calmed down, as San Diego County exited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest risk level Aug. 11.

Now, instead of a districtwide mandate, masks may be required at individual San Diego Unified schools that get at least three COVID outbreaks within a 14-day period, and if more than 5 percent of the school’s students and staff members are infected at that time, the district said. If conditions at a school trigger a mandate, masks will be required there for at least 14 days.

However, there is still a possibility of a districtwide mask mandate in the future.

“In the event that we need to consider districtwide masking, we will examine multiple measures that are reflective of school-based transmission, such as number of schools meeting individual site masking metrics, absences and peer-reviewed studies,” the district said in an email to families.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego Unified has had some of the region’s strictest COVID mitigation measures. It was one of the last districts to reopen campuses, one of the last to make masks voluntary after the statewide mandate was lifted and one of the only districts to institute a student COVID vaccination mandate.

Now the district is easing its mitigation measures as the general public’s concern with COVID has diminished. Los Angeles Unified, whose COVID strategies San Diego Unified has closely watched, stepped back from its mitigation measures two weeks ago.

“We know that COVID-19 is here to stay. We have entered into a new phase of this virus,” San Diego Unified told families.

In May, San Diego Unified postponed its student COVID vaccination mandate to at least July 2023 amid delays in full federal approval of the vaccine for youths and growing evidence that existing vaccines are less effective against newer coronavirus variants.

The district still “strongly recommends” that students and staff wear masks, specifically surgical masks or those with higher filtering quality, such as KN95, KF94 and N95.

San Diego Unified also will continue to offer voluntary weekly coronavirus testing and vaccinations at school sites.


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