LAUSD students must wear non-cloth masks starting Monday

Students in the Los Angeles Unified School District will now be prohibited from wearing cloth masks, according to an announcement released by the district on Saturday.

Starting Monday, students must wear “well-fitting, non-cloth masks with a nose wire” at all times, including outdoors. District officials said surgical masks or higher quality masks are acceptable and that these masks will be available to students upon request.

“Our school [coronavirus infection] rates have come down, but we continue to be diligent and nimble in creating the safest learning environment,” said LAUSD spokesperson Shannon Haber.

The move away from cloth masks was prompted by advice from LA County health officials, Haber said.

LAUSD allows exemptions to hide the rules for certain students who have a disability, medical or mental health condition that makes them unable to comply.

“If students have mask exemptions, it doesn’t apply to them. Otherwise, this applies to all students,” LAUSD Medical Director Dr. Smita Malhotra said of the ban on cloth masks.

Health officials in Los Angeles and across the state have increasingly urged the public to upgrade to surgical- or higher-grade masks, such as N95 and KN95 masks, citing the need for tighter-fitting masks with enhanced filtration to protect against the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

It’s important to “continue to wear a well-fitting mask” and to “understand that the masks that may have been really useful in the beginning are no longer useful today,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health Secretary and social services earlier this month.

County health officials have recommended cloth masks placed over surgical or higher-grade masks, a form of dual masking that improves fit and filtration.

Health officials have recommended masks with the following properties:

■ 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.

■ Adjustable ear loops or straps that go around the head to reduce gaps around the face.

The LA County Public Health Department said on Saturday the seven-day test positivity rate remained “very high” at 16%, with more than 250,000 positive cases this week.

LAUSD said Friday its positivity rate remained lower than the countywide rate, with employees having a positivity rate of 6.3% and students having a positivity rate of 9.1%.

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