Indoor masking to be lifted at LA County schools —

(Mayra Beltran Vasquez / Los Angeles County )

STARTING March 12, indoor masking at Los Angeles County schools will no longer be required.

Despite the lifting of the mandate, the state and county are continuing to recommend indoor masking for students, teachers, and staff, regardless of vaccination status, until transmission is lower.

School districts in LA County may continue to require masking at schools and during school activities, along with other appropriate safety protections, for their school community. At campuses where masking becomes optional, the LA County Department of Public Health encourages that information about the importance of masking is shared with all members of the school community, and that schools support all teachers, staff, and students who want to keep wearing a mask.

The county is also aligning with the state in revising isolation and quarantine requirements for TK-12 schools. Schools must continue to require COVID-19 cases to isolate, and a negative test will be required to exit isolation after five days. Masking and testing for asymptomatic students remaining at schools during their quarantine period are strongly recommended.

Public Health also urges parents to fully vaccinate their eligible children, as the vaccines offer the strongest protection against the virus. As of March 6, 35% of children 5-11 years old and 85% of children 12-17-year-olds have received one dose of the vaccine and 29% of 5-11-year-olds and 77% of 12- 17-year-olds are fully vaccinated.

Public health data shows that unvaccinated children ages 5-11 were two times more likely to be infected when compared to those who were fully vaccinated. For those ages 12-17, unvaccinated teens were two and a half times more likely to be infected and five times more likely to be hospitalized when compared to those who were fully vaccinated.

To make it easier for children to get vaccinated, Public Health is working to make vaccines widely available at many school sites. For the month of March, 921 school vaccination sites are scheduled with 89% located in hard-hit community areas, including South Los Angeles (including Compton and Inglewood), Southeast Los Angeles County (including Bell, Cudahy, Hawaiian Gardens, South Gate, Huntington Park, Lakewood), the San Fernando Valley (Reseda, North Hills, Panorama City, Canoga Park, Pacoima, and Sylmar) and areas in the Antelope Valley.

Local schools are continuing to see a decline in the number of positive tests and test positivity for their students and staff. Between February 28 and March 4, over 470,000 tests were administered at K-12 schools across the county with 1,381 positive tests, resulting in a test positivity of 0.3%. There were five new school-associated outbreaks (two outbreaks in elementary schools, two in middle schools, and one in youth sports) between February 27 and March 5.

“I send my heartfelt condolences and wishes of healing to the countless people who have lost a loved one to this pandemic,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “Although the County is now post-surge, Public Health cautions that community transmission is substantial and poses a risk for many individuals, including numerous people working at or attending schools. Having children and staff fully vaccinated creates a powerful layer of protection and continuing masking while transmission is substantial adds another level of safety for both children and staff in schools. When combined with additional safety precautions, including infection control and testing, schools can continue to offer safe environments for children, staff, and their families.”

Public Health on Friday, March 11 confirmed 48 additional deaths, and 1,297 new positive cases. Of the 48 new deaths reported today, five people were between the ages of 30-49, eight were between the ages of 50-64, 16 were between the ages of 65-79, and 13 were aged 80 years or older. Of the 48 newly reported deaths, 36 had underlying health conditions. To date, the total number of deaths in LA County is 31,225.

Public Health has reported a total of 2,810,308 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County. Friday’s positivity rate is .9%.

There are 588 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 11,526,900 individuals, with 22% of people testing positive. (AJPress)

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