School Officials Downplay Risk While LA County Data Show Rapid COVID Case Increases In Unvax'd 5-11 Yr Olds (Ineligible For Vaccine) And Unvax'd 12+ Students (Can Be Vaccinated But Aren't)
|(Sept.1, 2021, 11:05 p.m.) -- At late afternoon Sept.1, the L.A. County Department of Public Health issued a release reporting COVID-19 case rates have been increasing most rapidly among children 5 to 11, who (per FDA) aren't eligible for vaccination and among children 12+ would could be vaccinated but aren't.
The L.A. County Public Health Dept. release said that in K-12 school settings countywide, between August 15 and August 29, there were 5,207 student cases and 729 staff cases reported. (While most school sites with cases reported only one case, 621 LAUSD and 94 other school sites reported three or more cases.)
Of 17 outbreaks at schools that opened in August, the release said "47% were associated with school sports" and "team athletic activities have some features that make them particularly challenging settings in which to control transmission." It added that "the most powerful strategy for keeping schools open is increasing vaccination numbers as fast as possible. If all eligible children and staff at schools were vaccinated, we would dramatically reduce transmission both in school settings and in after-school sports programs and extracurricular activities.
[LA County Health Dept. Sep. 1 release text] Between August 14 and August 21, the case rate increased 50% among children 5 to 11, while the rate increased 13% in children 0 to 4 years old, and 24% in children 12 to 17 years old. Over the last week, as the case rate dropped 2-4% in the oldest and youngest age groups, the rate continued to rise 9% among 5 to 11 year olds. With increased numbers of children not yet vaccinated heading back to schools, layered protections are essential.
"An outbreak is when three or more cases with probable transmission occur at schools or school activities," the LA County Public Health Dept. release said "There are many instances at schools where there are more than three cases, but the cases are not linked to each other, and therefore not counted as an outbreak." The LA County data cover areas except Long Beach and Pasadena which have their own health departments.
The data come one day after state, county and LB school officials (joined by LB Mayor Garcia who has no governing role in LB schools) held a press event to mark reopening LBUSD schools (Aug. 31) to in-person classroom instruction. (LBREPORT.com video coverage here.)
Asked at the press event by LBREPORT.com if Long Beach schools could expect outbreaks similar to those in L.A. County schools, CA Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said "It is inevitable there might be some outbreaks and that it just comes with the territory. Our public health experts have said to us 'the more you test, the more you're going to find more cases. It's what we do about it and the quarantine that makes a difference."
LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jill Baker, Ed.D said: "We have teams trained at our schools that are trained to contact-trace and to work our control office staff around contact tracing so that we minimize any exposure that happens and contain the exposure that happens, just to add to what Mr. Thurmond said."
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LBUSD management said in mid-August public meetings that it has plans in place if COVID conditions change but declined to provide details at that time (and LB's elected School Board didn't publicly pursue details.)
With K-5 children entirely unvaccinated, LBUSD's current policy has LBUSD parents/students self-administer weekly nasal swab tests to their children and communicate positive results to their schools.
LBUSD students age 12 and above, and all teachers and staff at all grade levels, need not be vaccinated but must submit to weekly COVID-19 tests.
LBUSD also implements other health and safety protocols that include:
In a related development, the union representing Los Angeles teachers has included in its negotiating demands that LAUSD management require that all students eligible to receive the vaccines be vaccinated. There's no immediate word on whether LB's Teachers Union (TALB) and CSEA (represents other school workers) have taken a similar stance.
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