As in-person school resumes across the greater Bay Area, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors is considering requiring masks indoors regardless of vaccination status to better protect children, many of whom remain ineligible to be vaccinated.
In a Tuesday meeting, the board discussed the danger of students or teachers getting exposed to COVID-19 and then quickly spreading it quickly through in-person learning, citing the recent case of an unvaccinated and unmasked Marin County teacher who infected several students.
In public comment, the policy found particular support amongst parents worried that their children — especially those who are immunocompromised — could be infected at school. California has already mandated wearing masks indoors in K-12 schools, childcare and other youth settings.
“It really feels like since the start of the pandemic, families have been left behind at every policy decision. We were literally talking about golf before we were talking about children last year,” Supervisor and board chair Wendy Root Askew said. “I really feel that it is imperative that we do — that I do — everything in our power to protect their physical health, to keep them in school.”
Supervisor Luis Alejo questioned why County Health Officer Edward Moreno had not yet called for such a mandate, given strong evidence that masking has reduced community spread in other counties and cities that have already passed mask mandates.
Moreno told the board that the county’s high vaccination rate and low case rates indicate that current policies are enough to slow the spread.
“Those different layers of somewhat restrictive strategies in combination, which are less restrictive than an actual universal face mask mandate, from what I can tell have proven to be effective at slowing down the spread of COVID-19,” Moreno said.
But the supervisors felt differently. In the meeting, they embraced the idea of a 60-day mandate, with the option to extend it beyond 60 days should the situation not improve. The board said they will seek feedback before reconvening in a special meeting at a later date to vote on the proposal.