A medical assistant fills syringes at a community COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – An uptick in COVID-19 hospitalization rates and wastewater surveillance networks confirm that COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise. And while experts have been concerned that a new potential variant, known as Pirola, can spread faster even among people who had the illness before, trial data for the new booster appears promising to combat it.

But with any new COVID-19 booster — available as early as next week — comes renewed debate over vaccine mandates. In anticipation of any potential state or federal public health requirements, the Huntington Beach City Council voted Wednesday to ban mask and vaccine mandates, reports The Orange County Register, arguing that prior rules “damaged the economy.” Individual businesses can still require masks and vaccines, however, and residents can “do as they please.”

For public school students though, districts will expect them to be up-to-date on their shots against measles, mumps, chickenpox and other diseases. As EdSource reports, the state’s student vaccination rates have increased steadily since 2015, when California got rid of personal belief exemptions. 

But rates fell dramatically after schools shut down during the pandemic, and haven’t fully recovered since. California’s Department of Public Health’s latest audit numbers show that more than 500 public schools serving kids from kindergarten and seventh grade had low vaccination rates last school year, and can be at risk of losing funding.