California's mask mandate for schools officially ends Saturday, though face coverings are still recommended in some indoor settings.
California, along with Oregon and Washington, earlier this month announced the March 12 lift date, so the requirement officially expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
The new guidance makes face coverings a recommendation rather than a requirement at schools, regardless of vaccination status.
Federal mask requirements still apply in high-risk indoor settings such as public transportation, airports and taxis. Rules for other high-risk indoor settings could also vary by state.
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The milestone, two years in the making, comes as much of the country relaxes public health orders, including school mask mandates, in an effort to restore normalcy and boost economic recovery as Americans learn to live with the virus.
In February, California became the first state to formally shift to an endemic approach to the coronavirus with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s announcement of a plan that emphasizes prevention and quick reaction to outbreaks over mandated masking and business shutdowns.
Newsom has come under growing pressure from Republicans and other critics to ease the school mandate, which has increasingly become a polarizing issue among parents in California.
While many parents still support wearing masks in schools, others have questioned why it’s necessary when they no longer are required to do so in supermarkets and elsewhere. On Feb. 15, California ended an indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people, but at that time left the rule in place for the unvaccinated and for schoolchildren.
A handful of California school districts had already dropped mask mandates for students in open defiance of the state mandate.
The CDC had endorsed universal masking in schools regardless of virus levels in the community since July, but it now recommends masks in schools only in counties at high risk.