In an email to families Monday, PUSD Superintendent Randy Booker said the district was taking a wait-and-see approach to updating mask guidance because Alameda County public health officials did not expect to issue a recommendation regarding masks in schools until the end of the week:
While this announcement is long-awaited for some of you and represents a large step toward a return to normal for our students, please remember that as with previous state mandates, individual counties have the authority to impose stricter guidelines.
As previously stated, the District plans to align with whatever guidelines the state and Alameda County Public Health agencies agree upon. The situation may be somewhat complicated given today’s New York Times article that indicates the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is less effective in preventing infection in children ages 5-11. We are hoping to hear from the state and county on these findings soon. In the meantime, the District’s Health and Safety Steering Committee will be meeting on March 9th to discuss these developments and provide us an opportunity to gather feedback from our local health professionals.
On Tuesday county health officer Dr. Nicholas Moss told the Board of Supervisors he would make a recommendation by the end of the week.
“This is obviously a big change,” Moss said of the school masking requirement.
The case rate in Alameda County continues to fall, according to Moss. It was at 16 per 100,000 residents per day on Tuesday. Currently, hospitals in the county are caring for 139 people with COVID-19 and 24 of those are in intensive care units. This winter, ICUs did not face the burden that they did last year, Moss said.
According to the county’s COVID dashboard, as of Tuesday 97.5 percent of eligible Piedmont residents were fully vaccinated against COVID. The vaccination rate for Alameda County is nearly 83 percent.
Neetu Balram, spokesperson for the Alameda County Public Health Department, noted in a media statement Monday that the state’s announcement does not support an end to masking guidance entirely but “will move from requiring to strongly recommending masks for all in K-12 school and childcare settings at 11:59pm on Friday March 11th.”
In general, we align with state K-12 schools and childcare guidance because it has prioritized in-person learning and relied on evidence to balance prevention and risk. In addition, we seek to limit confusion and minimize the patchwork of restrictions that can undermine overall efforts without always contributing to significant differences in health outcomes. However, we make decisions to align local guidance with the state only after an assessment of how changes may impact residents. It is crucial that our local COVID-19 response continues to protect the public’s health in Alameda County broadly and in the communities most impacted by the pandemic.