Alameda County only holdout in announcing indoor school mask policy

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Alameda County is now the only Bay Area county that has not announced a decision on whether to make masking in schools optional after March 11, KTVU has learned.

That means most of the public and private schools in Alameda County are in a state of limbo, waiting for guidance from county health officials before making their own announcements on masks. 

Eight Bay Area counties – Contra Costa, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Napa, Sonoma, Solano and Santa Clara – have made a decision. All have decided to align with California's rules, allowing students to take off their masks indoors in a little more than a week. 

Earlier, a spokesperson for the Alameda County Public Health Department told KTVU they will announce their decision "by the end of this week," which would mean they have one more day. 

The state rule came with the caveat that "local jurisdictions" from county health departments to school districts and even individual schools would still have the authority to keep indoor masking rules in place.

Some counties jumped right in with San Francisco, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties announcing quickly they would line up with the state. 

Individual districts within those counties can still choose to keep masks in place, like San Francisco and South San Francisco Unified school districts.

MORE: San Jose schools fall in line with California on masking in schools

Others though, like San Ramon Valley Unified School District, said they would drop the indoor mask requirement.

"We're not the experts here at the school district or the school board," said San Ramon Valley Unified School District Supt. John Malloy. "We listen to our public health leaders. They understand the research, the science, the health issues. When they told we needed to be in masks, we're in masks. When they tell us to make masks optional - because they are the experts -  we will make masks optional."

KTVU contacted Alameda County Public Health department to find out what factors health officials are considering in making their decision, and if there are any significant differences between Alameda and other counties regarding case numbers and vaccination rates. 

An initial check of the Alameda County Health Department’s COVID dashboard shows no significant spike or difference in those metrics, compared to other Bay Area counties.

Many, if not all, school districts in Alameda County are now in a wait-and-see mode. 

The Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District said in a statement: "We will wait for the County's official statement before announcing any possible changes to our District's masking protocols."

Other Alameda County school districts in Oakland, Dublin, Pleasanton and Piedmont have said they are also waiting for the green light from the county to make masks optional. 

Many private schools are waiting for the county’s guidance as well.

Naomi Edelson, a parent of two children at Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley, told KTVU she finds Alameda County’s longer timeline frustrating.

 "So many others in the Bay Area are celebrating the fact that they are finally going to be able to see their teachers and friends' faces in the classroom, while we are stuck waiting for a response. It doesn't engender confidence in our county health officials."