CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Aug. 31, 2021) — Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey today voiced her endorsement and support of a letter from the California Department of Public Health that affirms the legal obligation for school leaders to follow the universal masking requirement in K-12 settings.
A letter from State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás J. Aragón was sent to education leaders throughout the state last week that outlines the legal and financial risks, and health consequences schools and school districts face if they fail to enforce the universal mask requirement for indoor school settings.
“We’ve known for a long time that masks would be critical to our ability to return to in-person instruction safely,” Mackey said. “The letter from Dr. Aragón reaffirms the science behind universal masking, and clearly lays out consequences for schools and school districts that choose to ignore science and place their communities at greater risk. I strongly encourage and advise all of the schools and school districts in Contra Costa County to follow the guidance to protect their students and staff members and avoid potential legal and financial consequences.”
School leaders have both a legal duty and a “moral imperative” to protect California’s students, Dr. Aragón said. Failure to do so, he wrote, “will expose schools and school leaders personally to substantial legal and financial risks.”
“COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant, poses significant health risks to students, and adults responsible for their safety should do everything possible to minimize those risks,” Dr. Aragón said in the letter. “There is a clear public health justification for requiring universal masking in K-12 schools to minimize those risks and avoid the needless tragedy of a student dying from COVID-19 due to exposure that could have been prevented through universal masking.”
While schools have the flexibility to develop local protocols for enforcing the mask requirement, they are not allowed to opt out of the requirement.
“The universal mask requirement is a public health directive that all schools are required to follow, similar to other public health orders, including orders that have been implemented both before and throughout this pandemic,” Dr. Aragón said. “The State is committed to working with schools, local governments, and other state officials to ensure schools implement this requirement to keep children and staff safe.”