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Law proposed to keep schools open and safe from COVID-19

Matthew Bowler
Lincoln High School seniors Ariana Moreno, 17, and Rondale Crowder,17, join San Diego Unified Student School Board Trustee Zachary Patterson at a press conference on Feb. 4, 2022.

A San Diego lawmaker is proposing a new bill to keep schools open and safe as the pandemic continues. Dr. Akilah Weber is the San Diego assemblymember sponsoring new legislation. The proposal would infuse the California Immunization Registry with COVID-19 data from across the state. Right now, only a fraction of counties voluntarily report their data, compromising the accuracy and efficiency of the registry.

Weber announced her proposal Friday on the campus of Lincoln High School. “It would create this requirement that every provider who gives out vaccines would have to put that information into this registry, and it would give all the schools access to all that information,” she said.

In fact, school districts do not currently have access to any of the state’s registry.

Law proposed to keep schools open and safe from COVID-19

San Diego Unified School District Interim Superintendent Dr. Lamont Jackson joined Dr. Weber, along with Dr. Richard Pan, a state senator representing the Sacramento area. Dr. Pan is a pediatrician known for his advocacy for children and legislation for public health.

In late January, the senator introduced the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act to close the personal belief exemption loophole for school-based vaccination requirements for COVID-19.

That proposal supplements an earlier law sponsored by Pan, which eliminated the personal belief exemption loophole for all other childhood vaccinations required for public and private school students when it became law in 2015. After the passage of his SB 277, vaccination rates dramatically increased for childhood diseases such as measles.

“We’re all tired of COVID, but we also have to understand the reason we’re doing all these things," Pan said. "COVID is taking a tremendous toll on our community including our children.”


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Student School Board Trustee Zachary Patterson was also a speaker at the press conference, along with two Lincoln High School students. Patterson said: “I’m ready to go back to normal. I’m ready to know I can be safe at school, and I know that there is a way and that’s getting vaccinated.”

Rondale Crowder, 17, and Ariana Moreno, 17, had harsh words for people who still refuse to get one of the COVID-19 vaccines. Moreno told KPBS News: “I’ve lost so many family members to it, and it’s really frustrating that people aren’t listening. People wanted a vaccine, and now that we have it a lot of people don’t want to get it.”

Crowder said: “The adults understand that they want the pandemic to end, but they don’t realize we have a solution, and they’re not taking it as seriously and efficiently as they should.”

San Diego and Los Angeles counties don’t report numbers to the state registry at all. They’ve kept their own records, which are often delayed coming from schools already overwhelmed with COVID-19 protocols and staff shortages. Dr. Weber’s bill, submitted to the legislature Friday, would change that.

San Diego Unified officials support the proposed legislation. They say having accurate and current vaccination records can help in preventing the COVID-19 spread.