Bay Area school district to provide fresh KN95 masks for staff through the school year

West Contra Costa Unified School District announced Tuesday that all staff at school sites will be required to wear KN95 masks starting January 10.  

School officials are taking the extra safety precautions in light of the highly-infectious omicron variant of COVID-19 that is currently surging across the U.S. 

"Everyone on our school sites deserve to feel safe and informed about COVID-19 and we are always prepared to adapt our safety measures when the conditions change," said Superintendent Kenneth Chris Hurst. 

The medical-grade mask is said to be able to filter out 95% of particulate matter in the air. Considering the airborne nature of the deadly disease, this move makes sense. 

The district will provide the masks for its 3,000 employees. In a statement, they say they will have enough masks for each employee to have one a week through the rest of the school year. It should be noted that regular daily use of the mask gives it about a week's shelf life, according to medical professionals. The masks should arrive some time this week, ahead of the deadline requirement. 

"Experts agree that these masks offer extra protection against the COVID-19 virus," Hurst said. 

As we've learned from the drawn-out global pandemic, not all masks are created equal. Last week medical experts advised upgrading from cloth masks to N95 or KN95 in order to better combat COVID-19's more contagious variants. They said to at least use a three-ply layered surgical mask, rather than cloth, which can still let particles pass through the mask. 

Another step in the district's safety protocol includes COVID testing. As we've been reporting, the scramble to get students tested as they return from winter break is on. 

West Contra Costa Unified School District sent about 15,000 test kits to families on Sunday, ahead of the Jan. 3 return to class. The district serves 28,000 students. 

The pandemic has disrupted education greatly with classes for students going online last school year. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden urged schools to remain open to minimize learning disruptions and so that students could continue to reap the benefits of an in-person education experience.