California health officials announced Monday that required masking in schools will remain in effect, even as the statewide indoor masking mandate expires this week.
In a press conference streamed on the agency’s Youtube page, Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health & Human Services Secretary, addressed the topic.
Ghaly traced past and current data points, including case counts, hospitalizations and test positivity, noting a significant decline in many categories since January's recent peak. He said that current pandemic models project a continued decline in hospitalizations.
“The idea that we will continue to see a reduction in numbers is very important for the decisions we’re making now,” Ghaly said.
The combined effects of dropping cases, decreased transmission and lower hospitalizations were behind the decision to change the indoor masking rules from a requirement to a strong recommendation. But the state is not yet ready to drop the requirement for schools.
Ghaly says that the CHHS will continue to assess statewide data in the coming days and will make an updated announcement in two weeks. On Feb. 28, Ghaly says he anticipates to announce date when the school masking requirement will be lifted.
He said that health officials will consider several data points when making the decision.
“Masking requirements will expire as conditions improve,” a slide in Ghaly's presentation stated. “The question is when, not if.”
The statewide indoor masking requirement runs through Feb. 15. On Feb. 16, vaccinated residents of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties can go without a mask.
The state's indoor masking requirement remains in place for those who are unvaccinated.