Due to the new highly transmissible variants that have been circulating since mid-March (Omicron Subvariants, BA.2.12 & BA.2.12.1), and the recent acceleration in COVID-19 cases nationally, in California, and in Los Angeles County, the Culver City Unified School District has decided to extend the in-door mask mandate for an additional two weeks, until Monday, May 2, when they hope to make masks optional (but still highly recommended.)
This is out of an abundance of caution for the health and safety of our students, our staff, and our families.
This decision was made based on several factors:
The national case rate has risen by around 25% over the last two weeks. Today, Los Angeles County reports a 23% increase in the last week.
The CDC advises taking a cautious approach in regards to prematurely lifting safety mandates, and is keeping its mask order “in order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity.”
The federal government has also extended mask mandates on public transit for an additional two weeks, until May 3.
According to an April 8, 2022 article in the LA Times, “The number of K-12 school coronavirus outbreaks is rising in Los Angeles County after many schools lifted mask-wearing requirements.” In this same article, LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer says the latest trend is “concerning because it represents increased transmission of the virus in school settings.”
We continue to live by and operate on the principle that the safer our schools are, the safer our homes are. Despite a high vaccination rate in our schools and in Culver City, there are immunocompromised people in our community whose health is at high risk if they contract COVID-19. And there are still children in our schools, and at home, who have not received the vaccine or are not yet eligible to be vaccinated. Furthermore, there are people who have never contracted COVID-19 before who are becoming infected, and people who have been infected are getting re-infected. COVID-19 and the threat to our collective health and safety is still very present.
We had the best of intentions before Spring Break that we could lift the in-door mask mandate after being back in school for one week, and testing everyone to ensure there was no outbreak. However, the newly detected variants, responsible for this most current surge due to their aggressive transmissibility, require us to be more cautious.
When students and staff returned from winter break in January of this year, the exponential rise in cases did not surface until two weeks after the break. The alarming increase left us scrambling, and we were forced to send everyone home for three days in order to stem the outbreak. By keeping the mask mandate in place for a little while longer we will prevent a repeat of the January surge and keep our students and teachers healthy and attending school in person.
We all are struggling with overwhelming COVID fatigue. This extended mandate undoubtedly comes as an unwelcome development to many students and staff who were looking forward to the option of not wearing masks while in-door at school. We continue to ask for compassion, grace and patience as we ask you to keep your masks on for two more weeks, to patiently support one another, and keep doing what we’ve been diligently doing just a little while longer.
The district will continue weekly testing. We will continue to urge all eligible students to get vaccinated if they aren’t already and to get boosted (and boosted again) as eligible. And we will continue to diligently monitor the caseload in our schools, in our community and in the county.