California school district reinstates indoor mask mandate amid increased COVID cases

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A Northern California school district is reimposing indoor mask requirements for students, staff and visitors amid an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

The Berkeley Unified School District on Friday said the new mandate go into effect on Monday, citing the advice of health officials. 

“As you can see above, Dr. Hernandez has strongly recommended that the district use our authority to reinstate a mask mandate,” district Superintendent Brent Stephens said about a message he received from city Health Officer Lisa Hernandez earlier in the week. “Because we are not a health agency, we must rely on these experts to guide us.”

The mandate comes in the last few weeks of school and applies to everyone on school campuses. In addition, the rule applies to all school indoor events held off-campus such as graduation ceremonies.


The Berkeley Unified School District announced Friday that it will require masks be worn indoors for students, staff and visitors amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. 
(Berkeley Unified School District)

Stephens said he’s asked staff members to return to Zoom meetings when possible and move indoor events outdoors when feasible. The district has also struggled with covering teacher absences with substitute teachers, leading to administrators being in the classroom to fill in as teachers in some cases, he said. 

On Wednesday, Hernandez advised Stephens to reimpose the mask order as COVID-19 transmissions continue to climb. 

“BUSD schools are experiencing a significant increase in cases of COVID-19 among students and staff. Additionally, BUSD is experiencing an increase in the number of classroom clusters which indicate likely transmission in school,” she wrote.

“To protect students and staff from further exposure and transmission, to ensure the completion of the in person school year and associated ceremonies, the City of Berkeley Health Officer strongly recommends that BUSD use its authority as a local education agency and an employer to reinstate a mask Mandate for students and staff until the end of the 2021-2022 academic school year,” the message said.

Cases of COVID-19 has been on the rise across the country. In California, the daily case rate was 23.2 per 100,000 people, according to a state Department of Public Health update on Friday. 


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