South Bay Schools Report COVID-19 Cases
Schools in the South Bay were the first to open for the new school year and they are the first to have positive COVID-19 cases, with reports from high school and elementary campuses.
“You’ve got full classrooms with no physical distancing, so kids are in close contact," said Bob Mueller, the Assistant Incident Commander for COVID-19 Response for the San Diego County Office of Education.
He said after a positive COVID-19 test has been reported, notification is sent out to the whole school or those who came in close contact with the infected individual.
“The idea of those notifications is just to raise awareness, to monitor for symptoms and to reaffirm that good prevention behavior is necessary," Mueller noted.
The next step is contact tracing, which is complicated in middle and high schools because students move between classes all day and are involved in after school activities.
“They have to go back and identify anyone who’s been within six feet for more than 15 minutes in a 24 hour period of that person,” Mueller said.
Schools have some options for students who’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
If the student was wearing a mask when they were exposed to the infected person in a classroom setting, that student can choose to stay in school, "as long as they’re tested twice a week over a ten day period and they quarantine from all other activities,” Mueller said.
If testing twice a week is not possible, one of the persons was not wearing a mask or the close contact occurred outside of the classroom, then there are two other options.
“A seven day quarantine is possible, where a student takes a test on day six and if that test is negative and they’re symptom free, they can return on day eight,” Mueller continued, “Or a student could quarantine at home for 10 days and return on day 11 as long as they’re symptom free.”
If a student chooses to quarantine at home, school districts and charter schools are required to provide an independent study option.
The county is assisting schools with providing rapid testing and even PCR tests when necessary, but that is a big task.
“The challenge is that you need people to administer those tests and track those tests,” Mueller said.
Mueller emphasized the importance of vaccination for children over 12 years old.
“Getting your child vaccinated could keep them in school, could keep them from missing sports competitions and practices, could keep them from missing performances if they’re in the performing arts,” he said.
According to the California Department of Public Health, a short term school closure could occur if within a 14-day period, an outbreak has occurred in 25% or more stable groups in the school or within a 14-day period, at least three outbreaks have occurred in the school AND more than 5% of the school population is infected.