In a special meeting on Wednesday, August 3, the Orange County Board of Education unanimously agreed to pursue legal action against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, challenging the governor’s order to mandate face masks indoors during the upcoming school year.

In response to Newsom’s requirement for students to wear face masks while indoors on campus, OCBE issued a statement on August 3, stating that its duty is to protect the health and safety of children in Orange County and the governor’s orders come without “sound medical or scientific basis.”

“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,” a portion of the board’s statement read. “Putting aside for the moment the lack of a sound medical or scientific basis for the governor’s requirement to mask school children (who in general are neither at risk from COVID-19 nor likely to spread it), and also putting aside the lack of any thoughtful, well-considered and transparent balancing of the substantial harms of forced masking of juveniles against the purported benefits, the governor and his state-level executive agencies do not have the power to continue the state of emergency indefinitely, and to continue to suspend the Administrative Procedure Act to circumvent normal agency rule making requirements.”

Locally, Irvine Unified School District announced that it would follow all recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, along with state mandates from the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Agency.

Currently, the CDPH recommends that students wear masks indoors, with face masks now optional while outdoors, and participating in athletics. A joint statement issued by the Orange County Department of Education and the HCA on July 16 says the CDPH is expected to assess conditions to determine if the use of masks is still required.

IUSD estimates the state will make another ruling on face masks in school no later than November 1.

In July, Newsom announced the implementation of new vaccination protocols for both state-level and healthcare workers in California. Since then, several cities have followed the governor’s lead, and require both city and county-level employees to show proof of vaccination, or participate in weekly testing.

Irvine City Manager Marianna Marysheva explained to Irvine Weekly that city employees will soon have to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccine or participate in regular testing. Marysheva added that she expects less than 25 percent of staff will need to be tested regularly, due to the fact that more than 75% of city employees have already been fully vaccinated.