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Public School Students Can Shed Masks Outdoors

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By Lookout Staff

February 16, 2022 -- For the first time since school started last fall, students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District don't have to wear a face mask outdoors.

The direction from the School Board comes as County Health officials lifted the mandate effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday as the highly contagious Omicron variant rapidly recedes.

Staff and students can still choose to wear masks outdoors, and masks will continue to be required indoors, School District officials said.

"This decision comes as a result of declining Omicron cases in the county and a sign that the surge is now waning," School Superintendent Ben Drati wrote in a public message.

"Given that the majority of students and staff in our district are now vaccinated and that our 5 to 12-year-olds are authorized to be vaccinated, we feel confident that this alignment continues to be in the best interests of students and staff," Drati said.

"This will be a major adjustment on our campuses that require everyone to cooperate with this new protocol."

The protocol requires students who are on quarantine while on campus to continue wearing masks outside during the course of their quarantine.

"We will monitor this as much as possible, however, recognize that adhering to this requirement will be the responsibility of the students and parents, as well as the staff," Drati said.

He added that masking is "highly recommended at crowded outdoor events."

Wednesday marked the seventh consecutive day the number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is below the threshold of 2,500 required to lift the masking mandate outdoors at schools, child care and for youth sports, County officials said.

County officials also lifted the requirement to wear face masks outdoors at mega-events, but they recommend masks be worn in crowded outdoor settings.

"Schools, districts, youth sports programs, and child care facilities have the option to be more restrictive in their policies than Public Health orders require," officials said.

The School Board voted to impose indoor and outdoor masking at its August 10, 2021 meeting.

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