Masks will no longer be required in schools and child care centers in California after March 11, according to an announcement by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
While the announcement is in response to declining COVID-19 infections, according to Newsom’s statement, schools and child care centers in Berkeley will be making their own decisions around requiring masks. For Berkeley Unified School District, Superintendent Brent Stephens announced that the district will continue to require everyone to wear masks indoors and have made masks optional outdoors.
“We do not expect to make any decisions regarding potential changes to indoor masking requirements until we have received City of Berkeley Public Health guidance, consulted with district and school leadership, and met and conferred with our labor partners,” Stephens said in the release.
Child care centers in Berkeley are also following precautionary measures around masking. Pixar Child Development Center, or PCDC, director Susan Stevenson said the program will continue requiring masks to protect children under 5 years of age who are not vaccinated.
Children at PCDC are required to remain masked both indoors and outdoors, according to Stevenson. Stevenson also mentioned that parents have not expressed any opinions to her about mask mandates, and that PCDC’s masking policy is similar to that of many other East Bay child care centers.
“(Masking) is just something we keep doing, and that we’ll continue to do,” Stevenson said. “We’re so far into it it’s become part of the culture.”
Berkeley day care center Bella’s Babies Inc owner Kristen Davis said the state’s mask mandate decision will not affect the center’s operations since most of the children at the day care are under 2 years of age and therefore don’t wear masks.
In addition, parents have separate drop-off times, giving them the option to wear a mask or not at drop-off, Davis said.
“I would say probably if the kid is 5 and older, maybe they’ll wear a mask,” Davis said. “But 5 and under, it’s hard for kids to have a mask on. It’s a fight that I know parents don’t want to have with their kids.”
According to Newsom’s announcement, masks are still required in high-risk settings such as public transportation, emergency shelters, health care settings, correctional facilities, homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
The announcement also acknowledges that local jurisdictions may have additional masking requirements beyond state guidelines. While masks are no longer required, Newsom noted that they are still “strongly recommended” for everyone indoors.
“I think this has been difficult for everyone concerned with the pandemic,” Stevenson said in her announcement. “It’s something we all knew nothing about and how to navigate. I feel like we’re still navigating it, and we’ll continue for a while.”