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San Diego Unified updates mask policy to include outdoor masking

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Texas Schools
Posted at 1:36 PM, Aug 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-26 22:12:05-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego Unified district officials announced Thursday that it has revised its mask guidance to include outdoor mask-wearing.

District officials said that it is strengthening its policy "in light of the continued presence of the COVID-19 virus in our community." Currently, students and staff are required to wear face coverings indoors on campus, per the state.

With the new policy, San Diego Unified said it will still encourage students to take "mask breaks" while outdoors and that students can de-mask to eat.

According to SDUSD, the new policy says:

"Masks are now required outdoors at all times while students are on campus, unless they are eating. Currently, large-scale events are not recommended for any school sites due to the increased risk of exposure.

We highly encourage students to take mask breaks outdoors. During these breaks students should maintain 6 feet distance from each other. Wearing masks outdoors lessens the likelihood of student exposure and allows more students to qualify for a modified quarantine.

Masks may be removed outdoors in certain situations and with certain distancing recommendations during physical education, athletics and performing arts programs."

Under California's public health order, all schools are required to enforce indoor masking guidance for students and staff — regardless of vaccination status.

Mark Powell, whose daughter attends University City High School and is fully vaccinated, said the outdoor requirement was an overstep.

"Maybe students might think that this is not such a safe place when they can go to a Padres game and not have a mask on at all, so why is it schools making it so risky to be in school and not so risky to be anywhere else?" Powell said.

He added if masks are required by schools, students should wear them. That said, he lamented the requirement for fully vaccinated students, noting a key reward of getting vaccinated was to lose the masks.

In addition to SDUSD's mask policy, and state's vaccination requirement or frequent COVID-19 testing for school staff, the district has also upgraded HVAC filtration systems at its schools, installed particulate sensors and CO2 monitors at schools to monitor indoor air quality, provided handwashing stations at multiple locations, purchased electrostatic disinfecting sprayers to clean school buses, and has contact tracing protocols in place if someone tests positive at school.

SDUSD is scheduled to start the school year on Monday, Aug. 30.

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"The orders that require that schools do these things are legally enforceable orders, backed up by health and safety code, which is law," Bob Mueller, the coordinator of special projects for the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE), told ABC 10News this week.

Mueller added 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.