SAN DIEGO (KGTV)— As students across San Diego County return to school, California requires everyone at K-12 schools to wear masks while inside unless they have a medical exemption.
“This is a public health order that school districts are expected to follow, similar to the other public health orders that have been implemented throughout this pandemic. We are committed to working with school districts, other local governments, and other state officials to ensure schools implement this requirement to keep children and staff safe,” said a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health in an email to ABC 10News.
“The orders that require that schools do these things are legally enforceable orders, backed up by health and safety code, which is law,” said Bob Mueller, the coordinator of special projects for the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE). He said while schools that go against the state’s health order could face penalties, the county will typically work with those schools to make sure they gain compliance.
In addition to the indoor masking requirements, there are some changes to the way quarantines will be handled this year.
Last school year, an entire class would typically be sent home to quarantine if someone tested positive for COVID-19; this year, it’s a lot more complex in an effort to keep kids on campus as much as possible.
Those who test positive are sent home for isolation, and contact tracing begins.
“Now we have different rules for adults and kids, different rules for vaccinated people and unvaccinated people, we heave four quarantine options for students, and two for adults, so the guidance is much more complicated,” said Mueller.
SDCOE worked with the County of San Diego to put together a “Decision Tree” following CDPH guidance for schools dealing with positive cases.
Monday, Sweetwater Union High School District, Grossmont Union High School District, Chula Vista Elementary School District, Ramona Unified, San Diego Unified, and Poway Unified told ABC 10News they’re using the guidance.
Under the guidance, there are four different quarantine options for unvaccinated students who don’t have any symptoms but were exposed to someone who tested positive.
“Fourteen-day quarantine is required for exposures that happen outside of school,” said Mueller. “Modified in school quarantine allows a student to remain on campus if they test twice a week every three days.”
The other two options are returning on day eight with a negative test taken on day six or returning on day 11 without a test required, only recommended.
“I think most schools are trying to provide all three options, but if one of them is unworkable, they can use two others,” said Mueller.
According to SDCOE’s guidance, if a student is exposed but is fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, they can remain on campus, quarantine is not required, and COVID-19 testing is only recommended.
The full decision tree is located here.