Math teacher Jose Soltero presents a slide show to his students about returning to classrooms after the pandemic, at Concord High School in Concord, Calif., on Aug. 12, 2021. (Harika Maddala/ Bay City News)

Alameda and Marin counties announced Thursday that they will both align with the state when it lifts indoor mask requirements for K-12 students after March 11.

Masks will be downgraded from a requirement to a strong recommendation while students are indoors in both counties and the city of Berkeley. Masks are not required for students while outdoors.

Individual school districts will still have the ability to implement their own masking requirements, while health officials in both counties said masks will remain an effective tool at reducing the spread of COVID-19.

“Cases are declining to near pre-surge levels everywhere, and this is the right time to move face masking guidance from requirement to recommendation in most settings,” Alameda County Public Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said. “COVID will be with us perhaps forever, and masks are tools we can depend on for protection.”

The state announced Monday that it will lift indoor mask requirements for students at 11:59 p.m. on March 11, the first time since the pandemic began that students have been free to attend classes in person without a face covering of some kind.

State officials argued that COVID cases and hospitalizations have plummeted from the record highs of the most recent surge, which was caused primarily by the highly contagious omicron variant.

In Marin County, Deputy Public Health Officer Dr. Lisa Santora said parents and students should take steps in addition to masking to prevent the virus’ spread, including getting vaccinated.

“Most importantly, parents and guardians should keep sick students home,” Santora said. “They should test for COVID-19, follow isolation guidance if they test positive, or if they test negative, stay home until symptoms are resolving.”

San Francisco made a similar announcement Thursday, saying that masks will still be strongly recommended in municipal buildings, including City Hall, public libraries and recreation centers.

Masks are still required under state and federal rules in health care settings, prisons, homeless shelters, long-term care facilities and on public transit.