In-N-Out Bans Employees From Wearing Masks

California fast-food institution In-N-Out Burger announced that it will soon ban employees from wearing masks in five of the seven states in which it operates restaurants, according to an internal memo leaked Friday

The exceptions? Workers in California and Oregon will still be able to mask, if they choose, to protect themselves from COVID-19 and other illnesses.

According to the memo, employees will no longer be allowed to wear face coverings come August 14, unless they have a medical note. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The policy was implemented to “help to promote clear and effective communication” between employees and customers.

“We are introducing new mask guidelines that emphasize the importance of customer service and the ability to show our Associates’ smiles and other facial features while considering the health and well-being of all individuals,” the memo said.

If employees want to continue wearing a mask, they must provide a medical note for “a specific medical condition or health concern that requires them to wear a mask” to their manager or In-N-Out’s human resources department. Approved employees must wear a company-provided N-95 mask. (The company did not provide a reason for wearing a company-issued mask versus one purchased by the employee.)

The note “should clearly state the reason for the exemption and include the estimated duration, if applicable,” the memo added.

Failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.

Dr. Judy Stone, an infectious disease expert and writer, denounced In-N-Out’s new policy on Twitter, saying that it violates COVID-19 recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and “endangers” employees.

Still, others online voiced their approval of the announcement, agreeing that it would improve customer service and that the move was appropriate, claiming the pandemic is over.

This is not the first time the beloved burger institution has come under fire for pushing back against pandemic health policies.

In October 2021, In-N-Out’s San Francisco location was forced to close its doors temporarily for flouting a local mandate that required indoor customers to show proof of vaccination.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Masks Will Now Be Required At These Places In Alameda Co. Due to Rising COVID Levels

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) — COVID hospitalizations are increasing throughout the state. The last time California had over 4,000 people in the hospital with COVID was in July.

“I think the challenge is that the numbers are rising and we don’t know where this peak will plateau,” said Dr. Jahan Fahimi, medical director of the Emergency Department at UCSF.

Dr. Jahan Fahimi says their hospital is not stressed yet.

“In many cases, its patients who are hospitalized for something else who also happen to have COVID. It’s not necessarily that COVID itself that is causing them to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Fahimi.

RELATED: Flu, COVID cases surging in CA; CDC suggests masking indoors to minimize spread

As hospitalizations increase, statewide transmission levels are changing. According to the CDC, the majority of the state is in yellow meaning under the medium COVID -19 community levels of transmission.

“We have seen our numbers sort of subtly increasing since mid-October. Yesterday, we moved from CDC’s yellow into CDC medium level,” said Dr. Joanna Locke, COVID clinical guidance lead for Alameda County Health Department.

In Alameda County, as of Thursday, the seven-day average case rate is 21 cases per 100,000 residents and 149 people are in the hospital with COVID-19. Now, they are updating their mask requirements.

County health officials say that per California state law, they must now re-implement mask requirements in high-risk settings besides healthcare. These include:

  • Homeless shelters
  • Emergency shelters
  • Heating and cooling centers (staff and residents)
  • Alameda Co. correctional and detention facilities

“We are aligned with the state masking guidance. We have not instituted any new requirements ourselves here in Alameda County, but according to the state when we move into medium certain locations, we need to require masking for staff and residents,” said Dr. Locke.

What about the state? In a statement, California’s Department of public health states:

“We are empowering Californians to take voluntary actions, including masking in public indoor settings, and getting the flu shot and updated COVID-19 booster, to protect themselves and their families from multiple respiratory viruses circulating in the state. We are not considering a statewide masking mandate at this time. As always, local governments may implement separate and more strict policies.”

Despite the increase in hospitalizations, Dr. Locke is hopeful.

Click here to read the full article in ABC News

LA County Inches Closer To Mandatory Indoor Mask Mandate

‘No one wants masks again’

Los Angeles County inched closer to returning to an indoor mask mandate on Thursday, with the rising number of COVID-19 cases moving the County back into the “medium” COVID activity level.

Since the repeal of state and local indoor mask mandates in the late winter and early spring of this year, fluctuating COVID-19 transmission rates, as well as recent new case rises and new variants, have had counties considering a return of some form of mask mandate. During the summer, Alameda County brought their mandate back briefly, with LA County nearly doing so but dropping plans to do so at the last minute due to both a turnaround of new cases and enormous public outcry.

A dip in cases during the fall quelled fears of a mandate for a time, but with the number of cases climbing again, LA County Public Health Department began to strongly recommend wearing masks indoors last month. The number of cases has continued to increase since. On November 21st, 1,123 new cases of COVID-19 were announced by LA Public Health. On Thursday, LA County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer  said that the number of new cases a day were over 2,700, with an average of 192 COVID-related hospital admissions, with Thursday’s total going well above that average with 4,493 new cases. Since November 1st, the average number of COVID infections a day has gone up 180%, with COVID hospital admissions up 200%.

“There is this common line of thinking that the pandemic is over and COVID is no longer of concern, but these numbers clearly demonstrate that COVID is still with us,” Ferrer said on Thursday. “Given both the increases in hospitalizations and the lack of certainty in the winter trajectory for COVID-19, continuing some common-sense mitigation strategies that we know work to limit transmission and illness, including masking and being up to date on vaccines and boosters, remains a very sensible approach.”

While the number of cases has pushed the county into the “medium” community level and a “high” level expected sometime in the next few weeks, Ferrer said that a mandate would not be put into effect until CDC thresholds were met. Specifically, a mandate would not happen until there was an average COVID admission rate of more than 10 out of 100,000 residents in the County and that 10% or more inpatient hospital beds had COVID patients.

“However, it does signal that case rates and hospitalizations are elevated, and we could be in the ‘high’ community level as soon as next week,” added Ferrer.

Many healthcare workers noted that reaching the CDC thresholds would take some time to meet, and would likely not be reached until after Christmas.

“If they are met, and that is still a big if, there would still be other County thresholds to meet, as well as a two week period to make sure those rates stayed that high,” Luisa Renteria, a nurse in Los Angeles who has assisted COVID patients since March 2020, told the Globe on Thursday. “That’s what stopped the mandate from returning this summer, and in all likelihood, would stop it again in, say, January or February.”

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

L.A. Urges Return to Mask-Wearing Amid Winter Covid Spike

Los Angeles is urging that residents wear masks again in all indoor public settings amid a Covid-19 spike that’s expected to intensify in the winter months.

The county announced Thursday that it is once again “strongly recommending” people resume masking, although it is not requiring it in most indoor venues. However, masks are still mandated at health care and congregate-care facilities, for those infected in the last ten days, and in establishments that have imposed their own restrictions, county Health Officer Dr. Muntu Davis said according to ABC7 News.

Los Angeles and many other progressive cities finally lifted their masks mandates a few months ago amid a decrease in Covid-19 contraction nationwide. Children enrolled in public pre-school and daycare in New York City, who were not vulnerable to the disease and not likely to spread it, were among the last groups to be freed of masks.

Last January, Los Angeles forced students to wear high-grade, non-cloth masks indoors and outdoors in K-12 public schools and be tested as a condition of returning to class.

On Thursday, the local seven-day average of daily new Covid-19 infections in Los Angeles increased to 100 per 100,000 citizens, up from 86 per 100,000 a week ago. The rate the previous week was 65 per 100,000 citizens, the outlet noted.

“Now it is strongly recommended that all individuals wear a high-quality mask that fits well in the following settings: in public indoor spaces; when using public transit, including buses, ride-shares, taxis and medical transport; correctional and detention facilities; and homeless and emergency shelters,” Davis said.

Davis warned that the number of reported cases is probably an undercount as many people test for the virus at home and don’t report a positive diagnosis to health officials. The number of Covid-positive patients being hospitalized is also growing in the county but reportedly only about 40 percent of them have been admitted because of Covid-related complications.

The county health officer told residents to be careful ahead of the holidays and when attending large gatherings.

While there is some evidence to suggest that wearing a well-fitting N95 mask might help curb transmission around the margins, research showsthat cheap cotton surgical masks, the kind the most commonly worn throughout the pandemic, are ineffective at preventing transmission.

Click here to read the full article at the National Review

Alameda County to Reinstate Public Indoor Mask Mandate Beginning June 3rd

Businesses here don’t want them because they cut into business, but look what happened – they brought them back’

The Alameda County Public Health Department announced on Thursday that they would be reinstating the mask mandate for most indoor public places in the County.

According to a statement from the County Public Health Department, the move to reinstate masking comes as the number of new COVID-19 cases in Alameda County has shot drastically up in the past several weeks, surpassing last summers Delta variant wave and already encroaching on the number of cases from the 2021-2022 winter surge. The County is averaging between 800-900 new cases a day with 102 people currently being hospitalized for contracting the virus. Both figures are up by 20% from only a few weeks ago.

While the County has become the first to reinstate mandatory indoor masking since the end of the winter surge earlier this year, there will be exceptions in the County. K-12 schools will not be covered by the mandate with it already being the end of the school year, and with the city of Berkeley also not falling under the mandate due to them having their own public health department. However, all other areas, including Oakland, fall under the new mandate.

“Rising COVID cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” said Alameda County public health officer Nicholas Moss in the Thursday press statement. “We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end. Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities.

“We held off doing this as long as we felt it was reasonable, but with the numbers continuing to go up and when we started to see concerning signals, we felt we needed to act.”

Alameda County Health Care Services Agency Director Colleen Chawla also noted that “We thank Alameda County residents, employers, and businesses for continuing to rise to the challenge in response to this pandemic. Unfortunately, COVID has not gone away and once again, we must take measures to protect ourselves, friends and community members, and employees and patrons from this very infectious virus.”

Negative reaction to the return of the indoor mask mandate

However, many citizens and business owners in Alameda County seriously questioned the return of the mask mandate on Thursday, with many reacting negatively to the Department’s decision.

“No. No no no no no,” said Lucinda Jackson, a local East Bay business owner who said her businesses only returned to the black for the first time since early 2020 just last month, to the Globe on Thursday. “They said it wouldn’t happen again. They said on TV masks wouldn’t be back. Everyone was saying they wouldn’t be back. Businesses here don’t want them because they cut into business. But look what happened. They brought them back.”

“This is the same government that right after all the BLM protests, said to go out and support black owned businesses. And now, by putting the mandates back, they are hurting us. This isn’t a one-dimensional issue. Putting the mandates back have consequences way beyond health, which, we should note, isn’t hospitalizing nearly as many people now. This makes me ashamed of my County.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Masks Still Required For LAUSD Students. Until When? It’s Hard To Say

Some parents plan to protest outside teachers union’s office Tuesday. Meanwhile, UTLA is polling members on district’s proposal to lift masking mandate and end COVID-19 testing in April, according to email.

Across Los Angeles County, students in a number of school districts now have the option of ditching their masks while inside the classroom.

But not so for Los Angeles Unified students.

Late Friday, L.A. Unified announced it would continue to require masking inside school buildings until further notice, hours before the state and county lifted their school masking mandates, thus leaving it up to districts to determine their own masking rules.

Parents who for months have demanded an end to school masking mandates on Monday, March 14, continued to voice frustration that masking is not yet optional in the nation’s second-largest school district and are planning to protest outside the United Teachers Los Angeles office in downtown L.A. on Tuesday morning.

The district has an agreement with UTLA that requires the parties to negotiate before L.A. Unified can lift its masking mandate.

The two sides met Friday, during which the district proposed changes to its health-and-safety protocols, but the union did not present a counterproposal, according to a memo that UTLA sent its members afterwards.

The district and UTLA are scheduled to meet again Wednesday to resume negotiations, according to the union.

In a subsequent email to its members over the weekend, UTLA stated that the district had proposed making indoor masking optional and ending mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for students and staff at secondary schools on April 1 and for those at elementary schools on April 29.

The district also proposed conducting baseline testing after spring break, which is scheduled to take place the week of April 11, according to the union.

UTLA has begun surveying its members to see how they feel about the proposed changes, with polling to end Monday night, according to the email.

“The district is not lifting the indoor masking requirement at this point because we don’t have a bargaining agreement,” the email stated.

That the district even has to negotiate with the teachers union has some parents up in arms.

Angelita Rovero, whose two children attend Portola Charter Middle School in Tarzana, said UTLA is overreaching and should not have the right to negotiate students’ health. Rovero opted out of paying dues to the union when she taught in LAUSD, she said.

“The union represents the teachers. They should not be representing the students,” she said. “I’ve never been on board with the union having so much control. … I’m dumbfounded that the LAUSD (school) board is owned by UTLA.”

Meanwhile, a parent at West Hollywood Elementary said she would have no problem with continued masking if that would make teachers more comfortable coming to work.

“I’m fine with whatever makes our teachers feel safe and comfortable teaching our children. They’re the bosses in the classroom,” said parent Kory Keith-Aronovitch. Her daughter, a kindergartner, had no trouble adjusting to wearing a mask all day when the school year started, she said.

“Kids are adaptable and nonpolitical,” she said.

To be clear, though the state and county have lifted their school masking mandates, health officials from both levels of government continue to stress that wearing masks in educational settings remains “highly recommended.”

As for the district’s intention when it comes to its masking policy, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who joined the district a month ago, signaled in a Twitter post on Saturday that he’s in favor of lifting the mandate.

“I strongly support amending Los Angeles Unified’s previously negotiated agreements to align with current health guidance” from the state and county, Carvalho tweeted.

Click here to read the full article at the Los Angeles Daily News

California Officials Raided Preschool, Interviewed 2-Year-Olds Over Mask Policies

 California state regulators conducted an investigation at a San Diego preschool and privately interviewed children as young as 2 without their parents’ consent about their masking practices.

Officials with the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) visited all three locations of Aspen Leaf Preschool in January after receiving a complaint that the school was not enforcing the state’s mask mandate, according to the CDSS’ response to a complaint by the preschool’s owner, Howard Wu.

According to the CDSS letter, which Wu shared with Fox News Digital, officials with the agency’s Community Care Licensing Division entered the three preschool locations on Jan. 19, separated the children from their teachers and interviewed them privately about their masking practices.

In his complaint to the agency, Wu described the investigation as a “simultaneous, multi-school raid” that resulted in “unnecessary and inappropriate child interviews.”

SUGGESTED: Elementary student wearing N95 mask outdoors passed out in extreme heat, parents say

“Every family we heard from after the inspections were furious about the interviews,” Wu told Fox News Digital. “We were open the whole pandemic about not masking children and the reasons why. The policy was on our website. Put simply, the mask guidance says children can NOT mask when eating and sleeping. In full day child care that’s 3 hours, so masking at other times offers no health benefit. All the families (except 1 in January) supported the policy.”

Wu also argues that the CDSS does not have the authority to enforce a mask mandate instituted by another agency, in this case the California Department of Public Health.

“We believe in good faith that the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction to enforce another agency’s mask guidance,” he said. “They could have issued us a citation in 5 minutes and let us take our challenge up through the proper channels. The simultaneous multi-school raids and the child interviews just felt like a power play.”

In its response to Wu, the CDSS said it holds the authority to “enter and inspect a licensed child care facility at any time, with or without advance notice, to secure compliance with, or prevent a violation” of state laws, as well as “interview children without prior consent and, when necessary, conduct the interviews in private.”

“Based on their personal observations and interviews of the facility directors, staff and children, CCLD staff determined that the licensee failed to ensure that staff and children used face coverings as required by the State Public Health Officer Order of June 11, 2021, thus violating the children’s personal right to safe and healthful accommodations,” the letter said.

The agency has issued Aspen Leaf a Type A citation, the most severe violation type, Voice of San Diego reported

In response to the citation, which Aspen Leaf said it is appealing, the school has updated its COVID-19 policy to require masks on all children over 2 until the state’s mandate ends on March 11.

In his official complaint, Wu included multiple complaints by parents who were outraged over the CPSS investigation.

“I do not feel this interview served my child’s safety or well-being,” wrote one parent, “and I believe it may have given a harmful impression about her obligations to speak with strange adults in private without known caretakers present.” 

“I understand that while the licensing agency is authorized to conduct private interviews with the children – this authority was put in place and intended for use when there is a situation of possible abuse, which is ENTIRELY absent from this situation,” wrote another parent. “Therefore, this agency has blatantly overstepped their authority.”

“Frustrated. Angry. Aghast. Confused,” another parent wrote. “These are only a few of the words that describe what we felt as parents of a 3.5 year old who was questioned by government officials at his preschool regarding mask-wear indoors.”

Wu said he believes his preschool was unfairly targeted because he challenged the CDSS’ authority.

“After it all happened I actually pulled every licensing report issued in California during the pandemic to get the data to show we were treated more harshly than any other center,” he told Fox News Digital.

Click here to read the full article here at Fox11

What Will It Take For S.F. Public Schools To Drop The Mask Mandate? Officials Won’t Say

San Francisco private schools and many Bay Area districts expect to abandon mask mandates later this month, but the city’s public school district has decided against the change and declined to provide details or dates for when their 49,000 students will be able to drop face coverings.

District officials say they will continue to require masks indoors, noting that county and state health officials “strongly recommend” students and staff continue to use them.

But require and recommend are not the same, and many families and health experts are asking for clarity on what criteria the district is using to decide when it will lift the mandate.

The district said masking is part of the current discussions with the union.

The San Francisco Unified’s stance will leave its public school students following a different set of rules than many if not most private school students in the city, as well thousands of other students across the Bay Area, where officials in most counties have already announced they will lift the mask requirement as of March 12.

While some families felt relief that masks would stay on in San Francisco public schools, others expressed frustration at the lack of clarity and metrics.

Districts in Contra Costa, San Mateo, Solano, Marin, Santa Clara counties as well as many others across the state announced this week they would follow the state’s lead and leave mask use up to individuals, including Santa Clara Unified, San Ramon Unified, Mill Valley Elementary and Mt. Diablo Unified.

Alameda County and Berkeley health officials announced Thursday they would also lift the mandate, which would likely mean some districts there would also make masks optional, although Oakland and other districts had not yet said what they will do.

In San Francisco, at least a handful of private schools have also said they will stop requiring masks, including Sacred Heart Cathedral, Adda Clevenger School and all of the city’s Archdiocese schools, which serve 23,000 students.

In addition, city health officials announced public buildings will no longer require masks either, except during public meetings.

That means public school students can go into city libraries, City Hall, boba shops, malls, restaurants and virtually any other venue or retail establishment without a mask. Classrooms will be virtually the only place they will have to wear one.

Bay Area infectious disease experts say that while SFUSD’s decision to maintain the mask mandate is not in lockstep with many other districts, it has both positives and negatives — and overall, is a complicated issue.

“I see both sides,” said UCSF infectious disease Peter Chin-Hong, saying the current “gray zone” of the pandemic has led to a lot of confusion and frustration, especially as it relates to schools.

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

Another Sacramento-Area School District Moves To Stop Enforcing COVID Mask Mandate

Another Northern California school district moved this week to relax its enforcement of the state’s COVID-19 mandate requiring students to wear masks in class.

The Rocklin Unified School District decided in a special board meeting Wednesday to make masks optional for its students.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration previously signaled that it plans to loosen the state mandate at the end of this month, shifting to a policy that would strongly recommend masks rather than require them.

The Rocklin meeting was called to consider “litigation and liability for COVID-19 protocols and options for enforcement moving forward,” Board Vice President Julie Hupp said. “We feel this is important to consider before our students return from their break.”

“We’re listening to everyone on both sides, being as thoughtful as we can be,” she said before the board went to closed session.

After three and a half hours, the board announced that “current face covering enforcement protocols prevent students from achieving their fullest academic potential and social emotional well-being.” Citing a decreasing case rate, the board directed the superintendent to alert families that students would be instructed on state guidance for masks, but would not be excluded from classrooms or school activities for not wearing it.

Masks will still be available to students who want one, said board member Dereck Counter. Staff and adult volunteers on campus must wear masks while on campus to comply to OSHA guidelines.

District spokesman Sundeep Dosangh said state agencies have not contacted the district over its masking policy.

The new policy takes effect when students return to campus on Feb. 28, which is when the state is expected to issue new guidance on school masking.

The Board of Trustees’ decision comes just a few months after it voted 4-1 for a resolution requesting local control over vaccine and masking policies.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Paso Robles School Board Votes to Defy the State, No Mask Mandate

Paso Robles school board votes to defy the state, no mask mandate

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District voted 5-2 on Tuesday to defy Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mask mandate for schools, and to allow students to decide if they want to wear a mask at school.

More than a dozen students and parents spoke against the mandate, and for student choice. Multiple speakers chastised teachers who adversely graded students they caught not properly wearing their masks.

Board members and speakers spoke of the hypocrisy of making students, the least vulnerable in the community, wear masks at school while adults are not required to wear masks in most settings.

Click here to read the full article at