LA School District Changes Mask Requirements To Help Ease Omicron Surge

by Julie Scagell
Iryna Tolmachova / EyeEm/Getty

Higher filtration masks that have a nose wire will now be required

The Los Angeles Unified School District is changing their mask policy in hopes of preventing the spread of COVID in schools. Now, students are prohibited from wearing cloth masks on campus and instead must wear “well-fitting, non-cloth masks with a nose wire” both inside and outdoors.

The change won’t just impact students. Employees of the school district now must wear a surgical grade mask or higher while on campus, a move that, along with changing students mask requirements, is being made as omicron cases soar across the country. The shift from cloth masks to higher filtration ones was prompted by guidance from L.A. County health authorities.

“Our in-school [coronavirus infection] rates have dropped but we are continuing to be diligent and agile in creating the safest learning environment,” district spokesperson Shannon Haber told the Los Angeles Times.

It’s important to “continue to wear a well-fitted mask” and “understand that masks that maybe were really helpful in the beginning are not as helpful today,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary, added.

The highly contagious omicron variant has spread like wildfire throughout the country, causing continuous record-breaking numbers of cases each day. The CDC also weighed in, saying, “officials recommend an N95 or a similar high-filtration respirator for increased protection from the virus,” and that “some masks and respirators offer higher levels of protection than others.”

This is especially important in schools where kids are in contact with each other and school staff for hours at a time. Some schools across the country have shut down again during the omicron surge as staff shortages due to COVID made it impossible to teach in person. Anything that can be done to protect students and staff should be considered.

For the LA school district, they now have strict guidance for which types of masks will be permitted. This includes, “Two layers of tightly woven cotton with a third layer of non-woven fabric. The third layer could be an inserted mask filter or a synthetic fabric, such as polypropylene, nose wires to reduce gaps around the nose, and adjustable ear loops or straps that go around the head to reduce gaps around the face.”

Masks that fit these guidelines will be provided to students and staff should they not have access to them. The new requirements will go into effect today. As omicron cases continue to peak in certain areas of the country, this may become the norm in schools to try to keep kids in person and everyone around them as safe as possible.