L.A. schools lift outdoor mask mandate for students, staff

The Los Angeles Unified School District on Tuesday dropped its outdoor mask mandate after the county allowed K-12 schools to lift the requirement last week.

Students will no longer be required to wear masks at recess or during athletics, as long as they are outdoors.

The new policy took effect for students and staff on Tuesday because schools were closed for the Presidents Day holiday on Monday, although those participating in athletics were allowed to unmask outside a day earlier.

On Wednesday, L.A. County relaxed its outdoor masking requirements for K-12 schools and child-care facilities as well as at “mega” events, such as those at the Hollywood Bowl, Dodger Stadium, SoFi Stadium and Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

L.A. Unified opted to keep its own outdoor mask rules in place but announced on Friday it would follow suit. L.A. Supt. Alberto Carvalho said it was still premature to discuss the parameters for lifting L.A. Unified’s indoor mask mandate.

The district has maintained some of the strictest COVID-19 safety protocols in the nation. Until the recent surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, outdoor masking had been dropped as a requirement for K-12 schools in Los Angeles County. Neighboring Long Beach Unified has not had an outdoor mandate because its independent health department did not impose such requirements.

Masks are still required at schools indoors. California’s mandate on campuses remains in force through at least Feb. 28, though the state’s health and human services secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, was optimistic the state would be in a position to change masking rules if current COVID-19 trends continue.

San Diego Unified, the state’s second-largest school system, lifted its outdoor mask mandate Wednesday.

On the same day, the state lifted its universal mask mandate for many indoor public spaces for vaccinated residents — excluding nursing homes and while aboard public transit.

Los Angeles County has not yet followed suit, although Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week the county’s sweeping indoor mask mandate could be eased by late March if current projections prove accurate.

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