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Los Angeles school district tells students to upgrade from cloth masks

Seventh and eighth grade students attend class at Olive Vista Middle School on Jan. 11 in Sylmar, Calif. Los Angeles students will be required to wear non-cloth masks.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is prohibiting students from wearing only cloth face masks on campus as the country grapples with a continued surge of COVID-19 infections driven by the omicron variant.

The district announced updated guidance on Friday requiring students to wear "well-fitting, non-cloth masks with a nose wire" both indoors and outdoors. Employees will have to wear surgical grade masks or higher.

Students and employees will be able to get masks from the district if they need them.

"Our in-school [coronavirus infection] rates have dropped but we are continuing to be diligent and agile in creating the safest learning environment," district spokesperson Shannon Haber told the Los Angeles Times.

The new policy takes effect on Monday, the newspaper reported.

According to public health experts, the cloth masks common at the beginning of the pandemic may no longer be enough to prevent you from catching the highly contagious omicron variant. Instead, officials recommend an N95 or a similar high-filtration respirator for increased protection from the virus.

Omicron is now the dominant strain of COVID in the U.S., making up more than 99% of cases, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Los Angeles recorded more than 39,000 new COVID cases on Saturday amid its highest spike in cases so far during the pandemic over the last couple weeks, though deaths remained far below what they were last winter.

The country's second-largest school system also requires weekly COVID-19 testing of all students and employees, and they must present a negative test to come onto campus.

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