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LATEST UPDATES: Tracking COVID-19 | Vaccines | Racial Justice

To Mask Or Not To Mask?

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY DANIEL ACKER BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

The CDC's new guidelines on face coverings and social distancing are raising questions about grocery store requirements moving forward.

The CDC’s announcement on masking Thursday was met with much enthusiasm, until people realized it was not clear when and how it applied. Plus, the year of distance learning has been tough on all students. Though academic loss might be front-of-mind for parents and teachers, experts say test scores are only part of the picture. And, coming up this weekend: a new exhibition at the Athenaeum, a virtual ballet and an arts-themed vendor fair.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Conflicting rules create mass confusion.

Speaker 2: 00:04 They do have the ability to be more restrictive locally. Uh, whether that be on a state level or on a County level, should they choose

Speaker 1: 00:11 I'm Maureen Kavanaugh? This is KPBS midday edition Reasons why art classes could be necessary for kids coming back to school.

Speaker 3: 00:30 I had a few students that were very isolated, had a lot of anxiety coming back into the classroom and being able to draw and do art, which is kind of an independent thing, kind of brought them out of their shell

Speaker 1: 00:45 And an exhibition of work created by San Diego artists during the pandemic that and more on our weekend preview that's ahead on midday edition

Speaker 1: 01:00 From celebration to confusion. The CDCs announcement on masking yesterday was met with a lot of enthusiasm until people realized it was not clear when and how it applied. CDC officials say masks are no longer necessary outside or indoors for people who were fully vaccinated, but the announcement didn't lift existing mask mandates for cities, States, or businesses. For instance, here in California, we are still under an indoor mask mandate until June 15th. And the CDC did not give any guidance on how to determine if say a supermarket customer or an airplane passenger is fully vaccinated or not. So state agencies and businesses are scrambling today to determine if and when vaccinated Californians can show their whole faces. Johnny Munis, KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman, Matt. Welcome. Hey Maureen, what exactly did the CDC say about masks yesterday? Because there seems to be something about local rules still apply that most headlines missed.

Speaker 2: 02:05 Exactly. And so, you know, the CDC, obviously they're, they're at the federal level and they basically came out and said, you know, after, you know, low transmission rates, um, you know, masks are no longer necessary outside or endorse for those who are fully vaccinated. So we're not talking about people who are unvaccinated, those who are vaccinated, uh, but keep in mind, like you said, this is guidance from the CDC. You know, obviously they, they, they can set mandates, but now this goes to the States and the localities. So that's, you know, the state public health department and then the County public health department have to decide, Hey, does this fit for our region?

Speaker 1: 02:34 Do we know the reasons why the CDC made that announcement?

Speaker 2: 02:38 You know, part of it is an effort to get more people vaccinated. You know, we talked to some local health officials, uh, a couple of weeks ago who are saying, you know, some of these moves like the one we saw on May 3rd, uh, basically saying that people can go outdoors, um, who are fully vaccinated without a mask is to incentivize some of these vaccinations. You know, um, you might be seeing some of your friends, you know, going out and doing things, but you're not because maybe you don't have that vaccination card that's in some places. Um, also we are learning a lot about vaccine effectiveness. We hear a lot about these variants that are out there. Um, you know, the Brazilian variant, the California variant, the New York variant. Um, but we know that the vaccines are working in stopping these variants.

Speaker 1: 03:12 Now taking off masks applies only to the fully vaccinated. Can you remind us what that means?

Speaker 2: 03:19 Right. So when we say fully vaccinated, that means either two shots of the Medina or Pfizer vaccine or one shot of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Um, so, you know, there is a lag time between some of those about a few weeks, but that's fully vaccinated, not partially vaccinated, but fully vaccinated.

Speaker 1: 03:33 This CDC announcement, doesn't quite jive with the announcement made about masks by governor Newsome this week. He said the state's target day to ease the mask mandates for vaccinated people is June 15th. So is there any move now to bring that in line with what the CDC says?

Speaker 2: 03:51 So the latest update that we have from the state health department is that they are reviewing that CDC guidance. They put out an update late last night, you know, after 9:00 PM, um, saying that they are reviewing it, which is interesting because the last time that we saw the CDC put out some of this guidance around May 3rd, in terms of, you know, people going outdoors and not wearing masks who are vaccinated, the state health department and the County health department moved very quickly to align themselves with that guidance. Now we know obviously wearing masks help stop the spread of COVID-19. So I imagine state officials right now are trying to look at, you know, how many people are vaccinated here in California, does this work right for our States? And until that happens, we won't see any movement from the County health department, you know, historically throughout this whole entire pandemic, they ever lied not only on the CDC, but the state health department in terms of, you know, making the moves where they go, obviously, Maureen, you kind of hinted at it. Um, they do have the ability to be more restrictive locally. Uh, whether that be on a state level or on a County level, should they choose

Speaker 1: 04:44 Now? What about private businesses in San Diego? Do we know how they're reacting to this confusion about masks,

Speaker 2: 04:51 About this confusion about masks, but if you look at the County public health order and it directs you right to the state website that has the latest guidance for masks, and it clearly says, and I'm quoting here, indoor settings outside of one's home, including public transportation, face coverings, continue to be required and requires in bold, regardless of vaccination status. Um, except for some areas outlined below. But I mean, basically what they're saying there is, you know, if you're going out in public, if you're riding the trolley for going to the grocery store right now, you have to keep that face covering on whether you're vaccinated or unboxing.

Speaker 1: 05:20 Okay. So looking down the line have any businesses or public agencies said that they're making plans to check, to see if people have been vaccinated before they allow them to go mask lists.

Speaker 2: 05:30 You know, Maureen, I'm not able to say for sure, but I know that a lot of businesses are seeing this announcement that came out yesterday from the CDC and they're reviewing a lot of their own internal policies. Um, for example, a lot of grocery stores are sort of looking at this now and saying, okay, where do we go here? Um, obviously, you know, depending on what state they're in like California, they sort of have to wait for the state health department to make, uh, their ruling on this to see which way they go. But I imagine a lot of eyeballs are on that state health department wondering where we're going to go here from now.

Speaker 1: 05:54 Now if unvaccinated people decide to sort of slip in under the wire and go mask lists, could that still pose a health threat to the community?

Speaker 2: 06:04 Definitely. I mean, we are not at herd immunity. We still have a long way to go to get a herd immunity. You know, vaccinations are starting to taper off, not, not, not just nationwide, but, but also here in San Diego County. So there's still a large hurdle to climb. And if we don't get to that herd immunity, you know, if they're still in vaccinated, people going around, uh, maybe they're maybe they're asymptomatic because they're young. They may not have any bad effects of the virus. Um, but they could still spread on a more contagious, deadly or variant of the virus. So it's, it's a big health risk to the community. And that's why public health officials, you know, we didn't see the state move right away, um, to adopt this mask mandate because we know that they have said that masks help slow the spread. And we know that the governor has said that, uh, he would like to see that mask mandate stick around, uh, to when all the restrictions are lifted, come summer around that June 15th. Um, but it's sort of remains to be seen where we go here.

Speaker 1: 06:51 Okay. And I know you'll keep reporting for us, Matt. I've been speaking with KPBS health reporter, Matt Hoffman. Thank you so much. Thanks Maureen. Following this interview, San Diego County released a statement saying San Diego County awaits further guidance from the California department of public health on any change or loosening of mask requirements. Okay. The year of distance learning has been tough on all students. And though academic loss might be front of mind for parents and teachers experts say test scores are only part of the picture KPBS education reporter Joe Hong spoke to teachers and experts about how art and music can help students recover from the pandemic school year.

Speaker 4: 07:42 [inaudible]

Speaker 5: 07:43 For Barbara Le Roy one silver lining of teaching at home through the pandemic was having the chance to play her ukulele, to keep students engaged during distance learning. And last month, when she went back to part-time in person teaching at Joseph Cassius elementary in the Chula Vista elementary school district, the ukulele came with her. Now it's helping our students readapt to the classroom.

Speaker 4: 08:02 If a child has had a tough morning, you know, maybe that music can just kind of get them out of their head. And out of that situation,

Speaker 5: 08:11 Roy said, it's not just the students who benefit from the single lungs.

Speaker 4: 08:14 It's just been kind of a lot of anxiety with being kind of on the camera and, and then now on in person. And, um, when I play music and I just kind of get out of my own head in my, uh, out of my own, you know, anxious feelings and just centers me. So it helps me to calm down.

Speaker 5: 08:35 And while educators have worried about learning loss and students falling behind experts say that emphasizing academic recovery might just create more anxiety for students. Uh, leaks Gallagher is the director of strategic partnerships for a think tank called policy analysis for California education. She said, emphasizing arts in the classroom can serve as an antidote to this anxiety. A students returned to campuses.

Speaker 3: 08:56 And so we have to understand when kids come back to school, having been away, um, they're bringing not only potentially a more varied academic challenges, but they've also had a wide range of emotional experiences and their associate emotional wellness definitely needs to be addressed

Speaker 5: 09:13 For both Gallagher and the Roy it's about helping students rediscover a love of being at school.

Speaker 3: 09:18 Things like the arts and visual arts, uh, dance sports, those activities that are kind of more often off to the side are actually, uh, places where students can bring their whole selves and find meaning and, and develop the relationships and connectivity to school that helped them get through school and, and ultimately thrive as, as well-rounded human beings,

Speaker 5: 09:42 Bonnie hunt, a first grade teacher at Cassius elementary said the social aspect of the arts also helps students as they emerged from a year in isolation.

Speaker 3: 09:50 I had a few students that were very isolated, had a lot of anxiety coming back into the classroom and being able to draw and do art, which is kind of an independent thing, kind of brought them out of their shell because then they wanted to share what they had done,

Speaker 5: 10:07 But academics and the arts aren't completely separate hunts. Students spent the last week learning about the bugs and insects that pollinate flowers or aerate, the soil

Speaker 3: 10:21 And animals that I pump.

Speaker 5: 10:26 They use paint markers to decorate the school garden. Hunt says this helps students gain confidence while learning.

Speaker 3: 10:32 They take ownership of it and it takes what they're learning from a book, and it makes it real. And when they can transfer what they've seen in the book or learned in the book and create their own, then you can really say, they've learned

Speaker 5: 10:48 Hunter is retiring this year, but you hope the new normal does not include the same. Hyper-focus on standardized tests. She's rooting for beauty and self-expression to make you come back.

Speaker 3: 10:56 Whether it's creating something that makes them feel good about themselves or something they've created that they're proud of or something that they've created that takes their sadness away. Then that's the most important thing about the classroom. Not whether or not they can bubble in bubbling in as an art

Speaker 5: 11:20 Joe Hong KPBS news.

Speaker 3: 11:32 This is KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh. This weekend. There's a new exhibition at the Athenaeum of art created just during the pandemic, a virtual ballet, two musical ensembles. Finally getting the chance to perform before a live audience. Plus there is even a night market vendor fair for creatives, joining KPBS

Speaker 1: 11:54 Arts producer, Julia Dickson Evans, with all the details and welcome

Speaker 6: 11:58 I'm Julia. Hi Maureen. Thanks for having me

Speaker 1: 12:01 Start with the ballet city. Ballet has a new staged and filmed production streaming right now, tell us what we can expect.

Speaker 6: 12:09 So there's lots of in-person art options this weekend. So if you're not quite ready, city, ballet's here for you and this production Raymonda, it's an hour long video of three main ballet pieces. One of which is the title piece Raymonda and it's choreographed by the company's own Elizabeth Westridge after Maria's pet tapas, original 1898 choreography. So it's the lively, classical ballet, but truncated for this, and then comes seasons with the music of Vivaldi's four seasons choreographed by Jeffrey Gonzalez. This one I loved, they use contemporary costuming and a striking black backdrop. So it really feels as timeless as It's from seasons and to close things out is a work they premiered in 2003 called still world turning again, but it's performed by the current cast and production wise. There's a really nice mix of a traditional stage view. And then some up-close camera angles. You can see the dancers faces, or my favorite is when the camera's behind the dancer spanning out towards the empty hall. I think I'm going to have a hard time going back to my nosebleed seats after this year

Speaker 1: 13:41 Is city ballet's Raymonda streams on demand through May 23rd in the visual arts, the LA Jolla Athenaeum is opening a new show of contemporary artists and the work they've made during the pandemic. Tell us Julia more about marking time.

Speaker 6: 13:57 Yeah, so they brought in 49 artists, all people who have previously had a solo show in the museum, or if they've contributed cover art for prior concert programs. So we're talking about a pretty exceptional list of talented living artists. And the only theme is that these works were made during the quarantine. Some standouts for me is a mock diploma made by Jean lo Alison [inaudible] neon sculpture that just says weather saves the day in bright, glowing yellow. And then artists believes era stays ceramic hot water bottle. It's kind of a reflection on illness and non-healthcare, and the exhibitions open by appointment beginning Saturday. But if you're already a member of the Athenaeum, you can just drop in during the gallery hours, which are Tuesday through Saturday during the day. And I think more than just getting an excellent group show of some great art and getting a chance to see what artists have been making recently. This is also a chance for us to literally Mark the time. It really feels like a time capsule of this week.

Speaker 1: 15:02 You're marking time. What Athenaeum artists create in quarantine is on view Saturday through July 9th at the Anthony, a music and arts library in LA Jolla, the Houseman quartet will be performing on the Berkeley ship at the maritime museum before an audience. This is something they haven't done in over a year. Tell us about it.

Speaker 6: 15:24 Yeah, they used to do these heightened voyages concerts regularly. And while they've done a few live streamed shows from the boat, it's definitely gotta be nice to have the audience with them out on the water this Sunday. And this weekend they're packing five works for strings into a 90 minute set. Two of the pieces will be by Haydn. And then there's a set of three contemporary composers. They're all seemingly divergent kind of wildly different styles, but the Houseman quartet really thrives on finding ways to bring all of those different works together. So there's a 1932 work by Mexican modernist Sylvester with Walter's Kerwin. Young's 2020 piece called peace on the left justice on the right, which was written in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. And then this work aleksandrov rebel. [inaudible] my desert, my Rose from 2015,

Speaker 7: 16:28 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 16:28 Presents an outdoor performance of paths converge at the maritime museum Sunday at 3:00 PM. And another music ensemble is performing before an audience for the first time in a while to tell us about project blanks outdoors.

Speaker 6: 16:45 Yeah. So this choral ensemble group, they're setting up at Kate sessions park this Sunday afternoon with four performers from the last virtual season, including violinists Bhatia, macadam summer, who was part of contraltos their recent production baritone, Jonathan Nessman, who was part of their own mensch performance. And then the founders, Leslie and Latham and pianist, Brendan Winn, who I'm told will be performing a few previews from the program they're going to present at the end of this month, which is called [inaudible]. And there is no tickets or anything you just show up, bring a blanket and a picnic and find a socially distant spot and enjoy the show.

Speaker 1: 17:27 Blanks pop-up concert is Sunday at four at Kate sessions park. And finally, good faith gallery is hosting an evening. Vendor fair. What's that going to be like?

Speaker 6: 17:38 Yeah, this should be a really low key, but creative event. It's all outdoors outside their gallery space in Sherman Heights, they'll have DJ sets and at least 20 booths from local artists, arts groups, and small presses like terrace gallery and burn all books plus food and treats as well. Good faith gallery is a black owned art space and it's a relatively new gallery to keep on your radar. They're hoping to start doing these night markets every other month. So the next one will be in July.

Speaker 1: 18:08 Good faith galleries night market takes place Saturday from six to 10 for details on these and more arts events or to sign up for Julia's weekly KPBS arts newsletter go to kpbs.org/arts. I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer, Julia Dixon, Evans, and Julia. Thank you

Speaker 6: 18:28 Very much. Thank you, Maureen. Have a great weekend.

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.