Schools Say They’re Caught ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ As Anti-Mask Protests Grow

As students’ and parents’ frustration on masks grows louder, schools take the heat for enforcing state’s mask mandate

Some San Diego County school district leaders are pleading for help as they bear the brunt of families’ discontent over the state’s indoor school mask mandate, which at this point has no expiration date.

Scores of San Diego County students, many who are not yet teenagers, are protesting the mandate by refusing to wear masks in class. The protests have garnered more attention in the past few days, ever since state officials announced at a press conference last Monday that they are not lifting the state’s indoor school mask mandate yet.

State leaders say they will reassess state COVID data on Feb. 28 but have suggested they won’t lift the school mask mandate until sometime after that date.

Families who don’t agree with masks have run out of patience with the school mandate as they watched California officials lift its mask mandate for virtually all other sectors of public life last week and as a growing number of states have lifted their school mask mandates.

Several of the student protests are happening in North County, where the parent-led, anti-mask Let Them Breathe movement began and where superintendents have complained about the state throwing down blanket COVID mandates on schools.

“I’m just really sick of all the masks,” Addy Spangler, 12, who refused to wear a mask at her school, Aviara Oaks Middle School in Carlsbad Unified, said on Sunday. “If (Gov. Gavin) Newsom doesn’t have to wear a mask, I don’t see why we have to.”

To follow the state’s mask mandate, schools are excluding students who refuse to wear masks from classrooms and having them wait in an outdoor location on campus until their parents pick them up. The practice has prompted complaints from parents who say their children are being denied instruction after exercising their right to free speech.

“I don’t want my child segregated,” said parent Wendy Griffin, on Sunday. Her 9-year-old daughter Emily refused to wear a mask at Kelly Elementary in Carlsbad Unified. “I don’t think that that’s right. It’s bizarre to me that we’re living in a land of segregation.”

But according to some local school leaders, the families’ anger is misplaced, because schools are required to enforce the mask mandate on the state’s behalf, even though several school leaders are unhappy with how the state has been handling COVID school mandates.

The superintendents of several local districts, including Poway Unified, Carlsbad Unified, San Marcos Unified and Alpine Union, said they are disappointed the state has not yet released a timeline for easing the school mask mandate. Districts in other parts of the county, notably San Diego Unified and South County school districts, have been much more likely to embrace COVID safety measures such as masking and vaccine mandates.

In a letter to state leaders on Friday, Poway Unified Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps shared frustration that state officials have placed the burden of mask enforcement on educators. She said educators are exhausted after two years of surviving distance learning, keeping up with COVID safety measures, following the state’s frequently changing school COVID rules and enduring anger and harassment from parents about masks, school closures and other COVID measures.

“Our already-taxed teachers and administrators should not and cannot be the mask police. Students should not and cannot be excluded from their education,” Kim-Phelps wrote. “The angst and conflict over masks have become an extreme distraction at our schools.”

Superintendent Ben Churchill of Carlsbad Unified said in an email on Sunday that there’s a misconception that school districts have the ability to defy the state’s mask mandate, and school staff have been put in “a very difficult position” because they face significant risks if they don’t enforce it.

“Our teachers, principals and staff are between a rock and a hard place. They just want to teach … They don’t want to fight battles about statewide mandates,” Churchill said. “But … they’re the ones asked to enforce the rules and they are far more accessible than any of the statewide decision-makers.”

Click here to read the full article at the SD Union Tribune

Masks Won’t Be Required In Many Places Starting Wednesday 

Two months after it was put in place to handle the Omicron surge, California’s mask mandate falls at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, though face coverings will still be required in many settings, including schools, hospitals and public transit.

San Diego County’s coronavirus numbers continue to make the case that the pandemic is receding. The daily number of new case notifications received by the county health department dipped below 1,000 Saturday for the first time since Dec. 20, coming in at 933 followed by 787 Sunday.

Dr. Mark Ghaly, state secretary of health and human services, said in a news conference Monday that falling trends in the number of new cases and hospitalizations provide confidence that pulling back on the mask mandate makes sense.

But, he added that while it’s no longer a requirement, wearing a mask indoors, especially in crowded locations, is a good idea given that transmission rates remain high relative to previous quiet periods such as the spring and early summer of 2021.

“We are still strongly recommending that people wear them in public indoor places,” Ghaly said.

The public, though, has largely been ignoring indoor masking rules in many locations, especially restaurants. Generally, enforcement of mask requirements outside health care and education has recently been nearly nonexistent. The point was illustrated at SoFi Stadium Sunday when cameras panning more than 70,000 Superbowl attendees showed that the vast majority had their faces uncovered. 

Maintaining the mandate in schools, but ignoring it in stadiums, drew continued fire from many in the public Monday. Ghaly did not address the dichotomy when asked to comment Monday.

He did stress that the virus continues to exact a toll even though case rates have fallen more than 70 percent over the past month.

“People have lost their lives to this nasty virus, and that continues,” Ghaly said. “That said, we understand a little better where it’s headed, and what’s happened over the last many weeks, and that is why we are prepared, after tomorrow, to allow the guidance for public indoor settings.”

By far the biggest continuing mask requirement remains in K-12 schools. Ghaly said that masks will continue to be required in schools, though a reassessment is set for Feb. 28.

Dr. Davey Smith, chief of infectious disease research at UC San Diego, said he trusts the state’s public health apparatus to react to trends in disease data by adjusting the responses it asks for, and sometimes demands, from the public.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

L.A. County Still Weeks Away From Lifting Indoor Mask Mandate, Ferrer Estimates

Los Angeles County is probably weeks away from lifting its indoor mask mandate, and at the latest could ease the order by the end of April — unless a new coronavirus variant poses a threat.

There are two triggers that could result in L.A. County easing its indoor mask mandate, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced Tuesday.

The first is the county entering a “moderate” rate of transmission, in which cases fall below 730 a day for two consecutive weeks, Ferrer said.

“We anticipate being able to get to ‘moderate’ transmission — if we can continue to drive down the rates, as we are right now on our cases — within a few weeks. But we’re not there yet,” Ferrer said at a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday.

L.A. County is averaging about 9,500 cases a day, according to a Times analysis of state data. Case rates in the county are dropping in half every week, Ferrer said. If this pace continues, the county would fall under the goal of 730 cases a day in early March and could exit the indoor mask order two weeks later, according to a Times analysis.

The county’s goal matches the recommendations issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends that vaccinated people in indoor public settings wear masks when there are 50 or more cases a week for every 100,000 residents; for L.A. County, this would mean 730 cases a day.

The second condition that would trigger the lifting of the county mask order, Ferrer said, is for eight weeks to elapse after children ages 6 months to 4 years become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

An advisory panel to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering the vaccine for that age group on Feb. 15, and an advisory panel to the CDC is meeting the following week, so it’s possible that vaccines could become available by the end of February. This means L.A. County could lift its mask order by the end of April.

“We think the end of April is the sort of endpoint,” Ferrer said.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

‘MaskGate’ and the Unserious Politicians Mocking the People of California

California is in a State of Emergency and is hosting the Super Bowl

Was it another French Laundry moment, or the latest installment of “MaskGate” at Sunday’s NFC Championship game in Los Angeles? Photos on social media brought us images of unmasked California Gov. Gavin Newsom, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, posing for pics with Magic Johnson, despite the Los Angeles County mask mandate and SoFi Stadium requirements.

Who can blame them? Wearing a mask everywhere you go, or all day is nauseating. Why can’t they admit this?

While California teens, children and even toddlers are still cruelly being forced to wear masks all day long in government schools throughout the state, and businesses are required to enforce indoor masking, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayors and celebrities were seen and photographed at the NFC Championship game looking normal without masks on, among 80,000 screaming fans. In fact, masks were not evident on anyone in the stands. 

The moment should have turned the tide; the mandates should have been lifted. But that’s not what happened.

Instead, our unserious politicians doubled down on stupid.

Rather than apologizing for violating his own statewide mask orders as well as the LA mask orders, Gov. Newsom claimed he’d been wearing it the whole time and only shed his mask for the photo op with Johnson. But there are other photos and video of him maskless.

Claiming to be thoughtful, “You’re correct,” Newsom said when asked about going maskless at SoFi stadium, Deadline reported. “I was very judicious yesterday. Very judicious. You’ll see the photo that I did take, Magic was kind enough, generous enough, to ask me for a photograph and in my left hand’s the mask and I took the photo. The rest of the time I wore it as we all should, um — not when I had a glass of water — and I encourage everybody else to do so. And, uh, that’s it.”

Asked if he should he have reconsidered taking off his mask, given his 2020 incident at the French Laundry, the governor responded, “Yes, of course. I was trying to be gracious. I made a mis — I was trying to be gracious,” Deadline reported. “I took the mask off for a brief second but, no, I encourage people to continue to wear them.”

My BS Meter exploded. He couldn’t even choke out the word “mistake.” Does Gov. Newsom have any humility? Does he think or even care that California residents are not so stupid as to believe his schtick?

Not to be outdone by the governor, Mayor Garcetti was even more of a clown when confronted. Garcetti said he held his breath to take the photo with Magic Johnson and Mayor Breed. Apparently Garcetti believes COVID germs don’t travel when you hold your breath.

“I’ll take personal responsibility,” Garcetti said when asked about the photos, “and if it makes you and everyone else happy — or even the photographs with people where literally I’m holding my breath for two seconds — I won’t even do that.”

It’s a shame Assemblyman James Gallagher wasn’t there. He’s the only one who made sense: “Gavin was judicious, Garcetti held his breath… C’mon man. Stop. They don’t really believe masking is necessary. Nor did any one else around them or anyone in that stadium for that matter. End of story.”

Click here to read the full article at California Globe

With a SoFi Super Bowl Imminent, It’s Not Time To Throw Out Mask Rules, Leaders Say

With the Super Bowl in Inglewood in just two weeks, public health and elected leaders pushed back Wednesday, Feb. 2, on calls to lift Los Angeles County’s masking mandates, citing still high coronavirus transmission rates.

They acknowledged that much will be left to personal responsibility on a Super Bowl mega-stage when such rules cannot be consistently enforced. But that doesn’t mean throw the current rules out, they said.

Not yet, anyway, they said.

Many fans seated at last Sunday’s NFC Championship at SoFi Stadium were seen not wearing masks, sparking calls to do away with masking rules altogether, given that actually fully enforcing the rule is not possible. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom also stirred social-media heat after photos were posted of them posing maskless with former Lakers great Magic Johnson.

“We’re still in a surge .. .,” said L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer at a news conference at SoFi Stadium, where she joined Garcetti, Supervisor Holly Mitchell, Inglewood Mayor James Butts and NFL officials. “It’s absolutely essential when you’re really experiencing this much community transmission to add in an additional layer of protection. In a large crowd …  putting on this layer is a critically important way to continue to stay focused on getting community transmission down.”

The message came in response to Los Angeles County Supervisors Kathryn Barger, who this week called on local and state officials to reassess the mask mandate. Barger and other critics argue that as the omicron variant wanes, and more become vaccinated, it should be up to the individual whether to wear a mask — especially when there’s spotty compliance at mega events anyway.

“Let’s do away with blanket COVID-19 masking policies — they don’t make a difference when they’re not consistently followed or enforced,” Barger said this week, noting that modern stadiums like SoFi have strong air circulation and all in the house are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

But Barger’s statement baffled Mitchell, who said the masking rules aren’t just for the benefit of fans’ public health. She pointed to concerns from many workers at venues — ticket takers, security workers — across L.A. who she said were concerned about non-mask-wearing patrons.

“That’s my responsibility and obligation, and I will continue to stand and do so,” Mitchell said.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

Thousands of LA City Workers Protest Vaccine Mandates At City Hall

Firings of 25% of unvaccinated workers next month would ‘cripple’ city

Thousands of city workers and those opposed to the Los Angeles City employee vaccine mandate protested outside of  Los Angeles City Hall Monday, hoping to turn around the law before the extended December deadline.

The city worker mandate, similar to the LA County worker mandate, was passed in August with an October deadline, making vaccinations mandatory for all city employees unless they have medical or religious exemptions. Due to a lack of “vaccination progress,” the deadline was extended to December 18th last month in the hopes that more will vaccinate in time.

Proponents have said that the mandates are in place to help combat COVID-19 spread and surges due to mutation. Prominent lawmakers have said that the mandates are for health and wellness, and that, despite only about 75% of city departments being vaccinated, all unvaccinated city employees will be fired by December if they remain unvaccinated.

“The City’s employee vaccine mandate is critical to protecting the health and safety of our workforce and the Angelenos we serve,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said last month. “Employees must be vaccinated by December 18, and we are putting a rigorous testing program into place in the meantime. Let me be clear: any employee who refuses to be vaccinated by this date should be prepared to lose their job.”

However, opponents, led by the Firefighters 4 Freedom and other city worker opposition groups, have refused vaccines due to bodily autonomy, personal freedom, constitutional, and health concerns. That opposition, as well as a fast-approaching deadline, led to the rally in Los Angeles on Monday.

Service delays, 25% layoffs

Many LAPD, LAFD, and other city workers protested the mandate and warned that service delays and response times would be crippled if each department had to lay off around 25% of their staff each.

“We’re not all these anti-vax people,” said one LAPD officer who attended the rally on Monday, and asked to remain anonymous. “We just don’t want to be forced into getting something we don’t want that infringes on our rights.”

“And, believe it or not, we also get that, yes, vaccinations can build up immunities and all that. But there is a difference between asking and demanding, and they’re saying we can’t go to public places or be employees based on a personal choice. It’s sickening.”

“They fire me, well, there’s thousands more gone too. Fire, emergencies, police; 911 will have to go to voicemail on busy days.”

“We actually have some buddies who were on the Detroit PD and Flint PD when they had to have similar cuts during the recession, and it was not pretty. Crime shot up, out of control blazes shot up. Everything. So there is precedent for what will likely happen. And right now we’re playing chicken with the politicians. They’re trying to get us vaccinated against our will and we’re standing here ready to go whichever way they decide. And right now, they may stop it. They already delayed it once, which gave a lot of us hope. If they were serious, they wouldn’t have given extensions. They flinched, and a lot of us believe that they will flinch again.”

At the protest, the founder of the LAPD anti-mandate group Roll Call 4 Freedom, Michael McMahon, said that many had already left their positions – including himself.

“I turned in my badge and my gun on Friday,” said McMahon. “It was one of the hardest days of my life. “I could not acquiesce in good conscience to submit my health to a still-experimental injection. Thousands of city employees are struggling with these issues related to their employment, and I want to say to you all, from the bottom of my heart, I love you and I understand. But coercion is not informed consent.”

After his speech, cheers and cries of “We will not comply!” resounded outside the City Hall.

City officials have given no indication that they will rescind the mandate as of Monday. The deadline date for all LA city workers to get the vaccination before termination is December 18th.

This article was originally published by the California Globe