Newsom Drops Masking in Schools Effective March 11



California is rolling this out in conjunction with Oregon and Washington.


The Administration is also working with CalOSHA to align the requirements as soon as possible.


It is important to note that counties can still implement masking requirements for schools within their jurisdictions. We recommend staying in communication with your county public health officers to share your perspective on the issue and to stay on top of any local masking mandates that may differ from statewide requirements. School boards can also adopt their own masking requirements that extend beyond March 11.


On Sunday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced an end to masking in the state’s schools effective March 2. She said local communities could implement their own masking requirement.


CDC No Longer Recommends Masking in Most Schools


On Friday, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated national guidelines to recommend that schools use the same guidance as general community settings, meaning masks are not required in areas that have low or medium levels of COVID-19 transmission and sufficient hospital capacity. CDC determines COVID-19 community levels by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.


The CDC also unveiled a new color-coded system for following COVID-19 county-by-county. According to the new system, 70% of Americans live in areas that are now considered “low” or “medium” risk. The CDC says schools do not need to require masking in those areas. The CDC now only recommends universal masking in schools in communities that have a “high” risk.


For counties with high COVID-19 community levels, the CDC recommends the wearing of masks in public indoor spaces, staying up to date on COVID-19 vaccines, and testing for those who have symptoms.


CDC COVID-19 Community Levels - Check for updates on your county status here.


What’s Next?


Because the CDC is only recommending masking, the state changing the rules for masking is an important turning point in what has become a lightning rod issue.


The Governor’s team heard from an overwhelming chorus of school leaders in recent weeks about the unenforceability of masking requirements in the face of open revolt in many communities around the state. Some community and parent groups are issuing threats against the lives and livelihoods of teachers, administrators, and school board members over school masking enforcement. The two-week delay will exacerbate these tensions.


In recent days and weeks, stories have emerged of students entering classrooms wearing a mask, then removing it and defying requests to put a mask on or leave the classroom. School employees are understandably reluctant to physically remove these students. In many of these same places, local law enforcement and county health officials have said they will not enforce the masking mandate in schools, leaving schools without practical tools to enforce the mandate beyond attempting to educate students of the value of masking.


The issue of masking will soon be a local decision. Local county health departments in High COVID-19 communities could chose follow CDC recommendations, so tracking that will be important. Additionally, local labor groups may raise masking issues as part of the local bargaining dynamic.


If we can provide any additional information, please let us know.


Take care,



Barrett Snider

Partner | Capitol Advisors Group