California will not bring back mask mandate for the new school year

California kids will be allowed to go to school without face masks when classes resume in the fall. But public health officials, while not requiring them, still will be recommending face coverings for students and staff in an effort to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at K-12 schools.

The state’s guidance, updated last week, allows a continuation of the mask-free classrooms that returned this spring. California stopped requiring masks in K-12 schools March 12, leaving it up to counties and school districts to keep or ditch the pandemic mandate.

All Bay Area school districts eventually adopted the state guidance while strongly recommending students and staff continue to wear masks. “Public health has essentially said, ‘You’re on your own, you do what you want,’” said John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert with UC Berkeley. “I do think that ship has sailed in terms of mandates. Unless we have another new variant that’s driving up hospitalizations, it’s not going to come back.” Infectious disease experts have cautioned that newer coronavirus variants could drive another surge in the fall. The highly infectious and immune-evasive BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of omicron made up about 70% of the coronavirus variants sequenced in the Northern California region last week, according to data published Tuesday by the CDC.