California’s Endemic policy drops school mask mandate

Starting March 12, California and SMUSD will no longer require masks in classrooms


Photo by Kenzi Holmes

Students continue to wear their masks inside the classroom but starting March 12th, SMUSD will make masks optional.

Average daily death rates in the United States from COVID-19 are starting to decline, giving people a sense of hope that the crisis is over. It has become evident that this disease reached a stage where the virus is still existent in a community, but is becoming manageable as immunity builds. On February 17th, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the first approach of an endemic policy against the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID-19 cases have been in a consistent decline this year so that’s a reasonable cause for things to go back to normal as soon as possible. It’s proven this virus mutates over time and we are just going to have to learn to live with it,” junior Tomas Fernandez said.
As California became the first state to shift towards an “endemic” approach to the coronavirus, significant changes were established. One of many goals proposed by the new policy is to allow freedom of choice, and will no longer require masks indoors.
A few weeks later on February 28, Governor Newsom announced that masks in school settings will no longer be required by the state. California is joining the growing list of other states, counties and cities that have relaxed or ended mask requirements in recent weeks.
Even with the state’s action, local officials retain the option of keeping masks rules in place if they think doing so is warranted, and more than 1,000 school districts face making their own decisions, SMUSD being included. Shortly after the announcement from Governor Newsom, superintendent Dr. Andy Johnsen released a statement with the district decision to make masks optional, but still strongly recommended regardless of vaccination status.
“Although masks are necessary for the virus, I believe we should move on and learn to live with the disease. I feel more free without a mask and with some people with glasses like me, they won’t fog up anymore. On top of that, I’m not a fan of wearing masks because they’re just really irritating sometimes,” junior Ivan Gonzalez said.
Despite possible future variants, Gavin Newsom’s SMARTER plan is working to improve treatments and preparing for new outbreaks. Established by Newsom’s administration, SMARTER is an acronym to highlight the key elements of the plan approaching the endemic phase. The letters stand for Shots, Mask, Awareness, Readiness, Testing, Education, and Rx.
“I think that the SMARTER plan is worthwhile and will be effective. Although it will not completely wipe out the disease, it is a step towards long-term progress,” junior Jack Lapadula said.
SMUSD will continue to work towards protecting the safety of students and follow the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines. In enabling a secure and rapid approach to ending the pandemic, it’s vital that bigger steps are taken to ensure normality and dropping the school mask mandate is a major one.