California doctors pushing for guidelines on when to lift mask restrictions in schools

Now that elementary school kids are eligible for vaccinations, a group of California doctors say state health officials need to start talking about when some school restrictions may come to an end. 

The group circulating that petition is called, California Parent Power, and one of their board members is Dr. Jeanne Noble, who is the director of UCSF's COVID  response team.

She wrote the letter behind the petition and 150 other Bay Area physicians and medical professionals have signed on in support. Dr. Monica Gandhi, the director of UCSF's Center for AIDS Research is the co-author. The group is asking health care providers who agree to sign the petition before they send it to state leaders on Friday.

"We're simply asking for metrics," Noble said on Thursday. "If we're willing to let adults take off their masks, based on metrics, we really have no justification to deprive that right to children."

MORE: San Francisco to require proof of vaccination for children ages 5-11

State health guidelines require adults and kids to mask indoors - but many Bay Area school districts go beyond state rules to require masking outdoors, too.

One pediatrician said some of her young patients aren't allowed to talk to classmates during lunch, when kids take off masks, to eat.

"That's not appropriate," said clinical psychologist Naomi Edelson. "That's not developmentally appropriate."

Edelson also has two elementary school aged children, and she's among the medical professionals who signed the petition.

"Children are social creatures, just like adults," she said. "They need to be able to interact with one another in an appropriately developmental way. I'm worried about what the off-ramps are."

Stanford infectious disease professor Dr. Jake Scott also signed the petition.

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"The public, in general, deserves and needs more communication about what the future is going to be like," Scott said.

Just last week, California's Health Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said even after vaccination, kids and teens will need to wear masks in schools through the winter months, because the state is entering a "period that looks very challenging."

Ghaly said even in places with high vaccination rates, they're expecting COVID cases to rise this winter.

He didn't give a specific date, but said after winter, California health officials will revisit the issue of masking requirements for students.

Gandhi hopes things like high vaccination rates will be considered.

"Vaccination is transforming," she said. "It is the way through the pandemic. And to not acknowledge that changes things and leads to distrust in public health officials."