California school campuses in 32 of the state’s 58 counties hardest hit by COVID-19 aren’t likely to reopen at the beginning of the school year, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in a press conference Friday.

“Public education is absolutely about our kids, but we cannot deny the fact that we have hundreds of thousands of adults that are responsible for taking care of and educating our kids as well,” Newsom said. “And their health has to be considered as well.”

Children are much less likely to contract COVID-19 than adults, but older adults and those with underlying illness are at risk.

Students in public and private schools located in counties on the state’s monitoring list because they have had an increase in coronavirus infections will begin the school year with distance learning. Schools in those counties will be required to meet strict criteria in order to reopen. 

The new guidance includes specifics about physical distancing, mask requirements, testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing, and distance learning expectations.

Staff and students returning to school campuses will be required to wear masks, except for students in kindergarten through second grade. Students who refuse to wear a mask will be sent home and taught via distance learning.

The decision to mandate school closures was based on increased rates of coronavirus cases in the state. California has had 117,929 new cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks, with 8,450 people hospitalized and 1,212 deaths from the virus.

In order for schools to reopen, the counties where they are located would have to have 14 days of a declining number of COVID-19 cases, as well as meet other criteria that the California Department of Public Health is currently using to regulate businesses and other activities.

Story originally published by EdSource.