County reports 191 COVID-19 cases as Newsom calls to end school mask policies
San Diego County reported 191 new COVID-19 cases and 11 deaths in its latest data, while Gov. Gavin Newsom said California will lift its requirement that students and staff wear masks indoors at schools on March 12.
San Diego County is in the high transmission category, meaning the CDC recommends universal indoor mask wearing, including for schools.
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“Right now our plan is to continue with our indoor mask requirements at a minimum until San Diego County is out of that high risk category,” said San Diego Unified Board Trustee Richard Barrera.
District leaders are discussing how to proceed. Ultimately the superintendent will need to bring any proposed changes to the board of education.
“If there are scientific reasons that the California Department of Public Health is highly recommending the use of indoor masking, it would be difficult for us as a school district to say we’re going to relax the requirement,” Barerra said.
Monday's data increased San Diego County's cumulative totals to 737,747 cases and 5,029 deaths. The number of county patients hospitalized with COVID-19 continued to fall, decreasing to 435 from 450, according to Monday's state data.
The number of those patients in intensive care decreased by two to 84. Available ICU beds increased by 10 to 212.
The county's Health and Human Services Agency reported 471 new COVID- 19 infections on Sunday and 722 on Saturday. The agency does not report COVID data on weekends.
An average of 16,300 COVID-19 tests were recorded each day for the past week. Of those, 5.7% returned positive — down from 6.5% on Tuesday. The county reports new COVID-19 data on Tuesdays and Fridays.
A total of 1,151,574 — or 54.3% — of San Diego County residents who are fully vaccinated have received a booster shot, according to the HHSA.
More than 2.9 million — or 92.6% — of San Diego County residents age 5 and older are at least partially vaccinated and more than 2.56 million, or 81.4%, are fully vaccinated.
On Tuesday, the state will lift its requirement that unvaccinated people wear masks in most indoor settings, but masks will be "strongly recommended" for everyone indoors. Masks will also continue to be required for everyone at settings including health care facilities, transit centers, airports, aboard public transit, in correctional facilities and at homeless shelters and long-term care facilities.
The state's indoor school masking mandate will end at 11:59 p.m. March 11.
"The state of California's strategy to lift student masking requirements is a safe and responsible step in the right direction," said San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher. "We've had one of the lowest school closure rates in the nation, but due to availability of the vaccine and therapeutic treatments, it is now time to resume our lives without COVID dominating daily action."
The announcement doesn't automatically mean that all school districts - - including San Diego Unified — will immediately drop the masking requirement. Individual school districts or counties have the option of maintaining local requirements if they deem them necessary.
The announcement comes following Friday's change in guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which adopted new standards that rely largely on COVID hospital numbers to govern whether masks should be worn. Those new standards — while resulted in mask recommendations being lifted for much of the country, still classified San Diego county as having "high" virus activity and urged that people continue to wear masks.
Starting Tuesday in California, masks will no longer be required but “strongly recommended" for unvaccinated individuals in most indoor settings. The same will apply to schools and childcare facilities on March 12.