State clarifies mask exemption requires approval of medical professional
Parental and/or self-attestation does not constitute an exemption
Closeup of someone wearing a mask

California’s Safe Schools for All Team updated its K-12 Schools frequently asked questions ( on Aug. 6 to address a question about doctor’s notes and parental or self-attestation for mask exemptions. As per the California Department of Public Health guidance on face coverings, “persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask” as well as “persons who are hearing impaired” are exempt from mask requirements.

According to the FAQ, assessing for an exemption due to a medical condition, mental health condition, disability that prevents wearing a mask or hearing impairment is considered a medical determination and therefore must be made by a physician, nurse practitioner or other licensed medical professional practicing under the license of a physician. Self-attestation and parental attestation for mask exemptions due to any of these conditions do not constitute medical determinations. Additionally, CDPH K-12 Guidance states that those exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition “must wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.”

The FAQs were updated amidst vocal opposition to the mask mandate from some parents at school board meetings around the state and a sharp increase in COVID-19 infections due to the delta variant. An August meeting of the San Ramon Unified Board of Education was shut down due to unruly and unmasked protestors who shouted at the board. A teacher in Amador County was assaulted by a parent angry over the mask mandate on the first day of school. And the San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Aug. 16 that at least one San Diego County school district board was considering letting students opt out of wearing masks in school without needing a medical exemption. It is yet to be seen how the state will enforce the mandate.