Education board in California's Orange County votes to reopen schools without requiring masks

The county Board of Education in Orange County, Calif., on Monday voted to approve school reopening recommendations that do not require masks for students or social distancing in schools.

In a 4-1 vote, the board approved recommendations that include frequent hand-washing, daily temperature checks and nightly disinfection of facilities and vehicles, but did not include mandatory masks for students, the Los Angeles Times reported.

“K-12 children represent the lowest-risk cohort for Covid-19. Because of that fact, social distancing of children and reduced census classrooms is not necessary and therefore not recommended,” the board’s recommendations reads. “Requiring children to wear masks during school is not only difficult if not impossible to implement — but not based on science. It may even be harmful and is therefore not recommended.”

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Although children are at lower risk of hospitalization from the virus, people at any age with underlying conditions are at higher risk for the virus. About 6 million children in the U.S. have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The board gave individual districts broad discretion in their reopening plans.

“Though it is important that we reopen our schools, some parents and some employees may reasonably question their own fitness for a fall return,” the recommendations state. “We understand that multigenerational families, for instance, or families in which children or adults live with maladies that make them more vulnerable might feel safe at home. It’s important that school districts accommodate these choices to the best of their ability.”

Los Angeles's and San Diego’s school districts have announced they will not reopen in the fall. Although Orange County shifted leftward in the 2016 and 2018 elections, it was for decades known as one of the most conservative parts of the state and has been an epicenter of opposition to mask mandates in California, according to the newspaper.

Nichole Quick, the county’s chief health officer, resigned in June, citing death threats after she issued an order requiring masks in public, The Orange County Register reported.