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Schools Superintendent Recommends Mandatory Staff Vaccinations, Outdoor Masking

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By Jorge Casuso

August 9, 2021 -- District Superintendent Ben Drati said Monday that he is recommending the School Board approve mandatory staff vaccinations and universal masking on all campuses at a special meeting Tuesday.

The announcement came in a message Drati sent to Santa Monica and Malibu parents, guardians, staff and community members that cites the spread of the delta variant that "has caused the number of cases in our county to rise substantially."

Drati said his recommendations are "based on the updated health and safety protocols and recommendations from (County Public Health), consultation with our panel of health experts, and our first-hand experiences with having students on campus in the spring."

Drati will recommend "mandatory vaccinations for all eligible staff" that will "become fully effective 45 days from adoption."

He also is recommending expanding the current mandate requiring face masks to be worn indoors to require "universal masking -- indoors and outdoors -- on all SMMUSD properties."

"I am recommending that the masking requirement extend to outdoors during non-instructional activities, including but not limited to, recess, passing periods, lunch (when not actively eating), and before and after school," Drati wrote.

The recommendations come as the highly contagious -- though far less deadly -- delta variant has quickly become the dominant strain across the country, increasing the number of positive cases among children.

A study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP] on Wednesday found that the number of children testing positive rose by 84 percent during the last week of July.

But the study notes that “it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths among children who contract COVID-19 are exceedingly rare.

The latest CDC data shows that between January 1, 2020 and August 4, 2021, a total of 51,892 children between the ages of 0 and 17 died in the U.S. Of those, 349 deaths involved the coronavirus.

That compares with 842 deaths involving pneumonia and 188 involving influenza.

The efficacy of face masks remains a hotly debated topic across the country. Advocates contend masking slows the spread of the disease with little adverse impacts on the wearer.

Critics counter that long-term masking can cause physical and developmental issues in children with little evidence they slow the spread of the virus.

White House Chief Health Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed the issue during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday.

"It's not comfortable, obviously, for children to wear masks, particularly the younger children," Fauci said, citing the rise in children who are hospitalized with the virus.

"But hopefully, this will be a temporary thing, temporary enough that it doesn't have any lasting negative impact on them (the children)," Fauci said.

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