Why is the Science Center still requiring everyone to wear masks?
Masks have been and continue to be an excellent tool for slowing the spread of COVID-19. As more and more people become vaccinated against COVID-19, public health measures like mask wearing will become less critical. However, many people are not yet eligible to get vaccinated, including children under the age of 12. Children make up a large and important portion of our core audience. Based on vaccine eligibility and local vaccination rates, we can assume that the majority of our guests—especially children—are still unvaccinated at this time.
California’s new mask guidelines give businesses the option to require all patrons to wear face masks. The same state guidelines also require all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face masks indoors in K-12 schools and other youth settings. Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics has formally recommended that all unvaccinated children over the age of 2 continue to wear face masks in public.
During this transitional time, we are requiring staff and guests to continue wearing face coverings to help protect those who are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, especially children. By continuing to wear masks, we can begin to relax other public health requirements, such as capacity limits in galleries and physical distancing requirements. This approach is grounded in science and follows the spirit of public health recommendations related to children. By continuing to wear face masks we can help keep all of our guests as safe as possible while enjoying the Science Center as much as possible.
But I thought kids didn’t get COVID-19?
Kids can, and do, get COVID-19. In the United States, more than 300 children have died from COVID-19 and kids currently make up about 20% of all newly diagnosed COVID-19 cases. While they are less likely to develop symptoms of COVID-19 than adults, they are still at risk. The American Academy of Pediatrics has formally recommended that all unvaccinated children over the age of 2 continue to wear face masks in public.
But I’m fully vaccinated. Why do I need to wear a mask?
COVID-19 vaccines work extremely well, but they are not perfect. Very occasionally, people who have been vaccinated still get sick with COVID-19. It is also still possible, though unlikely, for vaccinated people to transmit COVID-19 to other people without showing any symptoms. Although these risks are very low, the risk goes up the more people gather together in public areas.
The California Science Center is a popular destination that attracts large numbers of guests, including travelers from around the world. For the time being, it is important that we take extra precautions to ensure the safety of all of our guests. We are still in a transitional period as we wait for younger children to become eligible for vaccination, learn how long vaccines last, and observe how vaccines react to new variants of the disease. By continuing to require everyone to wear face coverings, we can better ensure the safety of all of our guests as our diverse community comes together to enjoy the Science Center.
Why don’t we have to observe physical distancing anymore?
Public health measures like face masks, distancing, and handwashing all work together to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Before we had vaccines, we wanted to use every tool at our disposal to prevent the spread of disease. Now we have highly effective vaccines, we can begin re-evaluating which safety measures are most important for slowing spread.
The latest science on COVID-19 tells us that the disease primarily spreads through the air. This means that vaccines, face masks, and good ventilation systems work the best to slow the spread. As more and more people get vaccinated, guests can now safely enjoy the Science Center without physical distancing.
Side note: Washing your hands will always help protect against all kinds of diseases, including the common cold. We now know that touching surfaces is not the primary way that COVID-19 spreads, but it will always be a good idea to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as you enjoy the hands-on exhibits at the Science Center.
When will you stop requiring masks?
We are actively following the science and public health recommendations in this area, as well as consulting with expert public health advisors. As more people, especially children, become eligible for vaccination we will continue to re-evaluate which public health measures are most important to ensure the safety of our guests.