• Thu. Feb 9th, 2023


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How Californians Feel About the End of School Mask Mandates

In March 2020, California became the first state in the nation to issue a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Two years later, Covid-19 policies here and elsewhere are being rolled back, a shift that is sowing division among those who once agreed how best to handle the pandemic.

One of the most contentious changes in California has been the lifting of the statewide school mask mandate.

As of late last week, the state no longer requires that students and teachers wear masks inside classrooms, though certain districts, including in Los Angeles and Sacramento, will keep the rules in place for now. Nationwide, 68 percent of major school districts no longer require masks, according to the tracking site Burbio.

Given the fierce debate, we asked readers how they felt about California’s school mask mandate ending. Polling suggests that Californians are pretty split on the issue, and your responses reflected that.

You’ve been writing to me about your hesitations around taking off masks — what one reader described as akin to “not finishing a course of antibiotics.” Or you’ve worried that the change has come far too late, as students’ social development has already suffered irreparably over the past two years.

I heard from hundreds of teachers, parents, students, school counselors and community members with plenty of opinions about school mask mandates. Here are some of their takes, lightly edited for clarity and brevity:

“As a teacher with multiple autoimmune diseases and immunocompromised students in my classes, I am worried for myself and my kids. I can’t understand the level of selfishness and lack of empathy in these decisions.” — Margaret Colburn, Los Angeles

“I am thrilled that the masks are coming off of my young kids. It is well past time! We know how low risk kids are, they deserve the normal childhoods we all enjoyed.” — Melinda Ulu, Santa Cruz

“Cases are down at my son’s middle school, and they haven’t had a positive test among staff or students in a couple weeks. However, I will tell my son to wear a mask until the new rules shake out. If cases start to rise again, I’d rather be ahead of the curve on that.” — Brooke Habecker, Redwood City

“I’m a student in Los Angeles, so I’ve endured some of the most overbearing Covid-19 measures since we went back to school in August. Cases have descended to less than 1,000 a day, and we have a high vaccination rate. If not now, then when?” — Shane Masterson, Los Angeles

“I am a school counselor. I feel uneasy about the mask mandates and how schools (in Santa Clara County) are making it ‘optional, but strongly encouraged.’ It might create further divisions and arguments between students that want to remain masked out of caution and those that prefer to be maskless. It is one more component about which kids and parents will be divided, and such division will now be visible and obvious to everyone.” — Christina Soto, Sunnyvale

“I’m happy that it’s being lifted, but I don’t think everyone will stop and that’s OK! I teach at a middle school, so I know students and colleagues who will continue to mask because of their health or, in students’ case, insecurities about their appearance. I think it’s appropriate for them to make that choice and feel comfortable at school. I, personally, am excited just to see all their weird little faces again (and I’m sure vice versa).” — Ed Chaney, Clovis

“My kids are 8 and 12, healthy and fully vaccinated, so I think they will be OK with or without masks. But on the other hand, we have worked so hard over the past two years to not get Covid; it seems silly to drop our main defense now. I would feel much more comfortable if only vaccinated students could shed their masks. As parents, we have had to make so many impossible choices and changes over the last two years, I am just exhausted.” — Leslie Suen, Truckee

For more:

Where to eat great Lao food around Los Angeles.

Today’s tip comes from Geraldine Mahood, who recommends Table Mountain in Oroville:

“In early spring it is covered in wildflowers, and people from all over Northern California travel there. Creeks run through parts of the hilly acreage, and there are at least two waterfalls.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Songs that got us through the past two years.

Before the pandemic, Ron King was a high-powered media executive who shuttled between New York and Los Angeles.

Now he runs a donkey sanctuary in Mendocino County.

King wanted to save donkeys, which are increasingly being slaughtered for the sale of their skin. Each one of the 97 donkeys that live on his ranch has been rescued from death.

“My favorite part of my day is my donkey hug,” King told CBS News.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Great delight (four letters).

Mariel Wamsley and Jonah Candelario contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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