California to Lift School Mask Mandate, Updates Guidance for Others

California announced on Monday that schools and child care facilities will no longer require children to wear masks, and the state updated COVID-19 guidelines as cases begin to subside.

California officials say children will no longer have to wear masks in classrooms after March 11. New guidelines also say people who are unvaccinated would no longer need to wear masks in most indoor settings starting Tuesday although it is strongly recommended, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The shift in guidelines could allow millions of K-12 students to not wear masks in the classroom for the first time in months. California had previously struggled with soaring rates of COVID-19 infection and hospitalizations among children from the highly contagious Omicron variant, but the new guidelines suggest the wave has passed.

"California continues to adjust our policies based on the latest data and science, applying what we've learned over the past two years to guide our response to the pandemic," California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement Monday.

"We cannot predict the future of the virus, but we are better prepared for it and will continue to take measures rooted in science to keep California moving forward," he added.

California school districts can still choose whether to implement their own masking mandates. However, students are still required to wear masks on buses in compliance with federal regulations.

Oregon and Washington state joined California Monday in adjusting their COVID-19 guidelines. Both states will be lifting their mask mandates for students in K-12 starting March 12.

"Two years ago today, we identified Oregon's first case of COVID-19," Oregon Governor Kate Brown said in the joint statement. "On the West Coast our communities and economies are linked. Together, as we continue to recover from the Omicron surge, we will build resiliency and prepare for the next variant and the next pandemic."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends requiring masks for students in K-12. The CDC had previously endorsed universal masking in schools since July, but now says students attending school in areas considered to be low to medium risks for coronavirus no longer need to wear masks.

"At the high level, CDC recommends that everyone wear a mask indoors in public, including in schools," CDC Director Rochelle Walenksy said.

The CDC adjusted its guidelines after focusing less on the positive test results and more on hospital admissions and capacity. As of now, more than 70 percent of Americans live where coronavirus is a low to a medium threat to hospitals, so the CDC recommended that masks no longer need to be used in most indoor places, the Associated Press reported.

Update 2/28/2022 5:30 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to provide additional details.

California Ends Mask Mandates for Students
California officials say children will no longer have to wear masks in classrooms after March 11. Above, kindergarten teacher Karen Drolet, left, works with a student at Raices Dual Language Academy, a public school in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on Wednesday, February 9. David Goldman/AP Photo