Gov. Newsom stands firm on school mask mandate in face of OC lawsuit

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Gov. Gavin Newsom stood his ground on the state's mask mandate for students in schools as he faces a lawsuit from the O.C. Board of Education, whom he described as heading in the same direction as states like Florida.

The board is suing Newsom, claiming his mandate requiring all students K -12 to wear masks indoors is a burden on children.

The governor, who visited schools in San Bernardino on Friday, shrugged it off and had this to say about the legal action:

"We will hold firm in terms of those recommendations that are aligned with the CDC and aligned with the American Academy of Pediatrics, which I am more interested in their counsel and advice than respectfully those that are seeking to move in the direction of Florida and other states," he said.

Florida is among the states leading the nation new COVID infections.

Newsom said the mask mandate is critical to limiting spread of COVID-19 and keeping campuses open.

"We want to keep our kids safe,'' he said. "We want them back in person for in-person instruction. We don't want our kids back on Zoom school.''

The O.C. Board of Education voted earlier this week to sue over the mask mandate, challenging Newsom's ongoing assertion of emergency rule-making powers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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"When necessary, the board will fight to protect the health, safety and welfare of our county's kids at school. Unfortunately, with the governor's most recent action to force Orange County's children, even those as young as 5 and 6 years old, to endure an academic year covering their faces for hours on end, the time to fight has come again,'' according to a statement posted on the board's website.

The board asserted that school children in general "are neither at risk from COVID-19 nor likely to spread it,'' a claim disputed by some local medical experts.

Dr. Dan Cooper of UC Irvine's Institute for Immunology, who has been active in the university's COVID-19 pandemic research, called the assertion "a falsehood.''

"We've learned that children are at risk of COVID. Yes, it's a milder disease, but to say they're not at risk is a crime. It's a lie,'' Cooper told City News Service, adding that kids are also able to spread the virus.

Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and UC Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, also disputed the Board of Education's claims.

"Kids spread COVID, there's no doubt about it,'' Noymer told CNS. "It's true they are not as much at risk of symptomatic infection, but that's not the point. The state mask mandate is sound, and I'd much rather see kids in school than at home for a second year.''

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City News Service contributed to this report.
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