By Jim Holt
Senior Investigative Reporter
Even though kids can go to school maskless starting next week, county public health officials strongly recommend they continue to wear them.
On Thursday, after sharing metrics on COVID-19 that showed a steady decline in new cases and hospitalizations, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer urged that masks still be worn.
On Saturday, the universal indoor masking requirement for kindergarten through grade 12 will be lifted.
“Although indoor masking will no longer be required, until transmission is lower, both the state and us here at the Department of Public Health are strongly recommending indoor masking for students, children, teachers and staff regardless of vaccination status,” Ferrer said.
County school districts can still require masking if they choose.
The latest countywide COVID-19 numbers show: 1,372 New COVID-19 cases (2,808,409 cases to date); 40 new deaths due to COVID-19 (31,178 deaths to date); 632 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19; and, more than 11,500,000 individuals tested with 22% of those testing positive to date.
Ferrer also said Thursday that the past week has seen at least four COVID-19 outbreaks in county schools.
“For this week, all metrics were considered to be of low concern except for the number of new outbreaks at TK through grade 12 school classrooms,” she said.
This still meets the threshold for moderate concern, with four classroom outbreaks in the seven-day period from March 2 to 8.
Updated numbers compiled this week show two outbreaks in elementary schools, two in middle schools and one in youth sports.
“Given the strong recommendation for indoor masking to continue and the reality that there may be many in the school community at elevated risk, there are certain to be schools and districts that will continue their indoor masking protocols until transmission is lower,” Ferrer said.
“At other schools, where masking becomes optional, we do ask that information about the importance of masking is shared with all members of the school community,” she said, “and that the schools support all those teachers, staff and students who want to wear a mask.”