With the anticipated return to in-person education, the Orange County Department of Education has addressed concern regarding the concept of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff.

In Irvine, the Irvine Unified School District has been on a hybrid model since September, 2020. In January, the University of California system announced it would return all classes back to campus in Fall 2021.

In a statement issued on Thursday, April 7, the OCDE announced that, “immunizations for COVID-19 are not mandated in California,” and schools in Orange County will not require proof of COVID-19 vaccination from staff or students when schools return to in-person education five-days per week.

As the eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine expands to those 16 and older, many students will not have access to the vaccine. While OCDE cannot make vaccines a requirement, an updated statement on the OCDE newsroom page indicates the county will uphold heath protocols such as face masks and social distancing:

“To accelerate a return to in-person learning five days a week, and to contribute to the economic recovery, OCDE is working with the Orange County Health Care Agency in support of its efforts to offer voluntary vaccinations to eligible candidates.”

On Tuesday, April 6, the California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state would be eliminating the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, the current color-coded monitoring system for COVID-19, on June 15, which will fully reopen the state’s economy.

As of April 8, the Orange County Health Agency reported an accumulative total of 251,611 COVID-19 cases, with 4,810 COVID-19 related deaths since the pandemic began last March.

On April 8, Orange County marked back-to-back days with less than 100 positive COVID-19 cases — 75 on April 7, and 95 on April 8.

In terms of vaccinations, as of Monday, April 4, the Orange County Health Agency had fully vaccinated 598,838 individuals. Statewide, the California Department of Health reports more than 7.4 million people are now fully vaccinated in California.

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