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Reaffirming California's Approach to COVID-19 Prevention and Containment in Schools by Continuing Masking Requirements

Date: October 20, 2021

Number: NR21-307


SACRAMENTO - Today, a joint statement issued by California Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly, and California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón, reaffirmed the state's approach to preventing COVID-19 in schools and protecting our students' health – continuing the state's successful masking requirements in K-12 settings:


"From day one, California has stepped up with policies that keep our children and school staff safe. Universal masking, combined with vaccination measures and access to regular testing, have been key to the state's nation-leading success in keeping schools open – resulting in California accounting for less than 1% of all school closures nationwide, despite educating 12% of the nation's public school students.


"Thanks to these policies, and the collective efforts of Californians getting vaccinated and masking up, California has consistently had some of the lowest COVID-19 case rates in the entire country.


"Now is not the time to let our guard down – especially as the winter months approach. Ongoing vigilance is critical to protect against COVID-19. This is particularly important for schools, where many children are not vaccinated. Although infection rates are decreasing, more than 25 counties continue to experience high transmission, as classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hospital capacity remains impacted in some regions, and approximately 80 Californians continue to die daily, on average.


"Due to these considerations, California is reaffirming its current approach to COVID-19 prevention and containment in schools and will continue to maintain the universal indoor mask mandate in K-12 schools and will continue to monitor conditions through the winter.


"Recent studies from the 2021-2022 school year confirm that schools with universal masking requirements are less likely to experience outbreaks, and that areas of the United States without school mask mandates experienced larger increases in pediatric COVID-19 case rates after the school year began, compared to areas with school mask requirements. Consistent with the guidance, California continues to assess conditions on an ongoing basis to determine whether to update mask requirements or recommendations.


"This strategy represents the best path for schools to protect children and school staff, ensuring that classrooms remain safe spaces for learning, and children are provided every opportunity to be successful."


The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has also released the most recent statistics on COVID-19 and updates on the state's pandemic response.


Statewide COVID-19 Data as of Today

  • California has 4,595,382 confirmed cases to date. Numbers may not represent true day-over-day change as reporting of test results can be delayed.

  • There were 3,070 newly reported confirmed cases Tuesday.

    • For the week of October 3 – October 9, the average case rate among unvaccinated Californians age 16 or older is 35.6 per 100,000 per day and the average case rate among vaccinated Californians age 16 or older is significantly lower at 5.4 per 100,000 per day.

    • The great majority of new cases are among unvaccinated individuals. The rate among the unvaccinated is 6.6 times the rate among the vaccinated.

  • The 7-day positivity rate is 2.0%.

  • There have been 99,152,394 tests conducted in California. This represents an increase of 221,983 during the prior 24-hour reporting period.

  • There have been 70,593 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

  • As of October 20, according to the CDC, 86% of eligible Californians have received at least one dose. Providers have reported to CDPH that a total of 51,473,669 vaccine doses have been administered statewide. Numbers do not represent true day-to-day change as reporting may be delayed. For more vaccination data, visit the COVID-19 Vaccine Data Dashboard.

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Tracking COVID-19 in California

Stop the Spread: Get Vaccinated for COVID-19

The risk for COVID-19 exposure and infection continues as a number of Californians remain unvaccinated. With the emergence of the more transmissible Delta variant, there is a renewed urgency to get all eligible Californians vaccinated as quickly as possible and complete their two-dose vaccination process if they are receiving Pfizer or Moderna.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, free and provides excellent protection from severe COVID-19 illness, including the Delta variant, hospitalization, and death.

Vaccination appointments for individuals aged 12+ can be made by visiting The consent of a parent or legal guardian may be needed for those between the ages of 12 and 17 to receive a vaccination. Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available.

Health Care Workers

As of October 19, local health departments have reported 127,102 confirmed positive cases in health care workers and 518 deaths statewide.

Testing Turnaround Time

The testing turnaround time dashboard reports how long California patients are waiting for COVID-19 test results. During the week of October 3 to October 9, the average time patients waited for test results was 1.2 days. During this same time period, 79% of patients received test results in one day and 95% received them within two days.

Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)

As of October 18, there have been 660 cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C) reported statewide. MIS-C is a rare inflammatory condition associated with COVID-19 that can damage multiple organ systems. MIS-C can require hospitalization and be life threatening.

Keep California Healthy

Protect yourself, family, friends and your community by following these prevention measures:

  • Get vaccinated, it's your turn now! Californians age 12+ are eligible to make appointments or go to a walk-in site for vaccination.

  • If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches), call your health care provider.

  • If you believe you have been exposed, get tested. Free, confidential testing is available statewide.

  • Wear a mask when required. Read the latest face covering guidance.

  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  • Delay travel (both domestic and international) until you are fully vaccinated. Read the CDC's full travel guidance.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home from work and school if you feel ill.

  • Add your phone to the fight by signing up for COVID-19 exposure notifications from CA Notify.

  • Answer the call or text if a contact tracer from the CA COVID Team or your local health department tries to connect.

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