California Changes Course On Schools Enforcing Mask Mandate
Speaker 1: 00:00 California has softened its COVID masking guidelines for the upcoming school year. The change comes after the state originally advised that students who refuse to wear masks would be barred from campuses. While face masks will be required. Indoors, social distancing will no longer be mandated within the state's public schools. The change in guidelines, further complicates how parents in schools approach the health and safety of children in classroom settings, especially as cases of the Delta variant continue to rise across San Diego. Joining me now with more is Dr. Robert Schooley and infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego health. Dr. Schooley welcome back to the program. Thank you very much. Good afternoon. So first question here, uh, is there a consensus within the medical community as to how parents should approach the health and safety of their children in the classroom? Speaker 2: 00:52 Well, we know that, uh, children can be infected that they are less likely to become ill than adults, but some do become quite ill and there have been some deaths and some long-term side effects in some children who are unfortunate enough to become infected. We know that many of the same things that have worked in adults to prevent transmission masking, trying to avoid large numbers of people in dorks endorsed together, maximizing ventilation work in children as well. So until vaccinations become widely available for children under the age of 12, we're going to have to rely on some of the behavioral interventions to keep children as safe as possible. Where Speaker 1: 01:29 Does the state's revised guidance sit with what the CDC is currently recommending? Speaker 2: 01:34 Let's say it's basically being consistent with the CDC guidelines, which is that people who are unvaccinated should wear masks indoors. The CDC is recommending that K through 12 students also remain masked in the fall term, mainly because most of them will not have been vaccinated, uh, by the time fall arrives. Since the studies of vaccines in younger children will be ongoing. So the state's, uh, recommendations are quite consistent with that. Uh, I hope that as, uh, the vaccines are found to be safe and effective in children, that we can extend the same protection to them that we have to the adult population and make schools also a place where the virus isn't welcome. In the Speaker 1: 02:13 Meantime, there's been a nationwide spike in the number of reported COVID cases over the last week. Is there any worry that this kind of spike could extend to school campuses once the fall semester starts up? Speaker 2: 02:26 Well, we know that respiratory viruses do increase in their, um, incidents, the new cases, um, in other words, uh, increase in fall and early winter as people come in doors. And that certainly happened last year with, uh, this particular virus. There's no reason to think that it won't. And we have layered on top of that this new Delta variant, which is circulating, uh, and a substantial sub segment of the us population that has not yet been vaccinated. So I think we're going to continue to see in the fall kind of a dual epidemic, one epidemic will be of unvaccinated people and they will end up in the ICU. Uh, and many of them will die. We will also have cases of much less severe disease, more flu like illness, uh, so-called breakthrough cases and people have been vaccinated, but very few of them will end up in the hospital. Uh, and we will have cases of people who have been vaccinated, who are infected, but don't become symptomatic. The schools will be part of this, uh, children because they're younger will be less likely to come severely ill. Uh, but we should be careful about our children. And again, when they're in situations where there are large numbers of others, present, masking really makes a lot of sense, uh, until they become vaccinated. And that's the reason the K through 12 recommendation remains in place. Given Speaker 1: 03:36 That that's the case, you know, given the current surge of Delta variant cases, then should students and teachers alike be wearing masks in the classroom, regardless of vaccination stuff, Speaker 2: 03:47 I think in the fall, that makes a lot of sense. So there will be children over the age of 12 who have been vaccinated. The problem is that when you're in a school, you don't know who's vaccinated and who's not in a elementary and high school. And until vaccination percentages are much higher than they are now, uh, it's just much more reasonable to have everyone be masked, uh, until we get to a higher level of vaccination, do Speaker 1: 04:11 We know about the transmission of COVID-19 and the classroom? Speaker 2: 04:15 We know it has occurred. We know that when people have looked though in the last year before vaccines became widely available, most of the transmissions occurred, uh, when people became infected and their families or in the community and came to the classroom rather than the classrooms being, uh, incubators for infections that then spread into the, into the population. There's no reason to believe that the virus can't be transmitted in classrooms. And, and again, that's why I'm asking is recommended and what particularly important in the fall, if the current, uh, increase, uh, in new cases, uh, continues to, um, to accelerate. Here's the question. Speaker 1: 04:50 Do you have any sense on if the virus has been able to mutate among those breakthrough cases? Speaker 2: 04:55 We don't yet. Um, there are some data emerging that most of the breakthrough cases are variants, but it's also true that most of the cases in the community now have become barons. Uh, so, uh, although the data aren't definitive, I think you would see an over representation of Varian cases in the breakthroughs, and we'll continue to have that happen. But again, people who have been vaccinated are much more likely to have either an infection that has no symptoms or an infection with mild flu like symptoms. And I think one thing that people should, we've seen a fair number of people who just think they have the sniffles or the flu and continue to go to work and school, and then suddenly realize when they get tested, that what they really had was COVID. I think people should be aware that those who've been vaccinated in particular can have what people think are the sniffles or the flu that turned out actually to be COVID cases. And so if you have symptoms like that, you should not go to work and you should not go to school and you should be tested for COVID. Uh, because, uh, right now that's more likely than another viral infection. Let me Speaker 1: 05:52 Ask you this. Is it accurate? Cause we hear this so often that the virus is able to, because so many people are not vaccinated. Is that an accurate statement? Speaker 2: 06:01 It is this virus like other RNA viruses and those include HIV and hepatitis C or viruses that are out in influenza as well. These viruses were able to stick around the human population because they have as one of their toolkits, the plan to make mistakes when they copied themselves. So that each new generation of ours is slightly different from the one before. So this virus like all RNA viruses will gradually change its genetic makeup, as it goes through the human population and the more people who are infected and the fewer people who are vaccinated, which both increases the likelihood of new infections and allows the virus replicated higher levels. In other words, more viral, progeny, more viral children are produced in an unvaccinated person. The more of that that happens, the more likely the virus is to continue to evolve. Speaker 1: 06:51 I've been speaking with Dr. Robert schooly and infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego health. Dr. Schooley. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.