As the country grapples with a continuing surge of infections from the omicron variant of COVID-19, the Los Angeles Unified School District has implemented a policy that prohibits students from wearing only cloth masks on campus.
According to updated guidance issued by the district on Friday, students must wear a "well-fitting, non-cloth mask" outdoors and indoors. The district requires employees to wear surgical masks or higher.
The district will provide masks for employees and students if they need them.
According to the Los Angeles Times, district spokesperson Shannon Haber said school infection rates have dropped but the district remains vigilant and agile in providing a safe learning environment.
For some students with disabilities, medical conditions or mental health conditions, LAUSD allows exemptions to protect their rights, according to the Los Angeles Times.
New policies are in effect as of Monday, the newspaper reports.
Public health experts note that cloth masks common at the beginning of the epidemic may not be enough to prevent you from catching the highly contagious variant of omicron. To protect against the virus, officials suggest an N95 or other high-filtration respirator.
More than 99% of COVID cases in the U.S. are caused by the Omicron strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of new COVID cases in Los Angeles rose above 39,000 on Saturday, the highest number of new cases so far this pandemic, though deaths remained significantly lower than last winter.
As a part of the nation's second-largest school system, all students and employees are subject to weekly COVID-19 testing, and they need to pass the test in order to enter campus.
As part of an ongoing awareness campaign, health officials across Los Angeles and California are urging residents to use surgical-grade masks, such as N95 or KN95 ones, to protect against the omicron variant.
Approximately 250,000 positive virus cases were reported last week, according to the LA County Department of Public Health.