Analysis Reveals Disparities In COVID Testing Among San Diego Unified Schools
Speaker 1: 00:00 A recent analysis from voice of San Diego shows disparities in COVID testing across San Diego unified schools, though Latino and low income communities have been hit. The hardest by this pandemic. Those same communities in schools have less access to test putting students at a higher risk for infection. Why is that? Well, hunts Barry, a reporter for voice of San Diego is covering the story and joins us now with more. We'll welcome. Hi Speaker 2: 00:28 Jade, Speaker 1: 00:28 You all did an analysis looking at how frequently COVID testing at schools and low income communities is happening. What did you find out and how big is the disparity? Speaker 2: 00:38 Well, you know, you said in the intro Jade, we did find disparities and we found that these tests are not happening where they're needed most. Um, you know, we found schools in richer, parts of San Diego are doing more tests than schools in low-income areas. We did this analysis by comparing free and reduced price, lunch data, basically using that as a proxy for poverty, with the number of tests that were being performed at each school, um, each week that that's numbers that the district puts out and we found that schools in the upper 25% of income were doing on average 99 tests a week. And schools in the lower 25% of income were doing just 30 tests a week. So, so more than three times a difference there, what Speaker 1: 01:28 Schools in particular did you all look at? Speaker 2: 01:31 Well, you know, we basically looked at every school in San Diego unified and there about 160, 170 schools in the district we looked at, we looked at elementary, middle high school, everything. And we found that some schools did zero tests last week. You know, one high profile school that that was true at is central elementary. And you may remember Cindy Martin, who's now deputy secretary of the department of education, former superintendent, her school, central elementary, where she was principal. They did zero tests the week of September 5th. Speaker 1: 02:03 And as we mentioned before, Latino communities in San Diego have been hit hard by this pandemic, right along with low income communities. And yet there's been less access to COVID tests. What did you find out about why that inequity exists? Speaker 2: 02:18 Well, you know, trying to explain the why of that danger is still a little difficult, but it's one of two reasons. Essentially there's been a difficulty ramping up the number of tests to meet the amount of students and teachers who want it. Um, 33,000 people in the district have opted in to do tests and to do free testing. You, you have to opt into it. And the week of testing that we looked at only 11,000 tests were performed, uh, that did go up slightly last week. But, um, still, um, half as much as the amount of people who have signed up or being tested. So I think they did 17,000 tests week. So, so there's an issue with just ramping up capacity. Richard Berrera school board president told me that, um, the companies doing the tests are having trouble hiring employees. Um, it's UCFD and another private company doing these tests. So ramping up is one problem. And the other is just, you know, that maybe students are opting in less in certain neighborhoods in San Diego, Speaker 1: 03:25 You spoke with San Diego unified school board, president Richard Berrera. What did he have to say about why these schools aren't doing as many tests as schools and higher income communities? Speaker 2: 03:35 Well, I mean, the first thing that Richard Berrera said is, you know, he agreed that this is an inequitable result. Um, you know, the district hadn't done the analysis I had and I presented him with the findings and, and, you know, he was quick to acknowledge that we need to be doing more tests in more vulnerable communities, not less tests, because as you said earlier, Jade, I mean, um, you know, uh, there's a couple of problems with not doing the test in these places. And one is that, you know, students are putting their families more at risk and their families are already more at risk. You know, we know that children in low income neighborhoods are more likely to live in multi-generational households. And if we're testing less than those schools, we're going to find the virus lists. Those children are going to bring that virus home to people who might be very vulnerable to it. And even more than that, um, you know, they, those schools are gonna be more prone to outbreaks. We know children in low income areas have experienced more learning loss during the pandemic, but if we test them less, you know, we're, we're liable to exacerbate that gap because they're going to have to go home more. Speaker 1: 04:46 How many COVID cases is the district dealing with and have there been any outbreaks Speaker 2: 04:52 The district, uh, you know, despite these disparities in testing is dealing with an extremely low number of COVID cases right now, at least, um, you know, what they're reporting on their dashboard. The week we looked at COVID-19 cases, there were about 130 in the district last week, there were only 119 as 99 students, 20 staff members with active cases of COVID 19. And there were two outbreaks the district reported. And so that means that you would have a school where three people tested positive within the same two week period. And they all are from different households. So that's what they consider an outbreak. So, you know, I think for now, we're really lucky in San Diego in terms of the number of cases Speaker 1: 05:38 Next week, San Diego unified will consider mandatory vaccines. What can you tell us about that? Speaker 2: 05:45 Well, um, Richard, Berrera who we talked about, he's been on the board more than a decade, longer than anyone else. And he told me he supports that measure to have mandatory vaccinations for people 12 and up. So, uh, what I can tell you is it sounds like we're very much headed towards a vaccine mandate here in San Diego unified. You know, the board president has been on the board 12 years is, is not likely to support something that's not likely to pass. So, um, that'll be great for, uh, for students 12 and older in terms of the spread of COVID. Um, but you know, elementary schools will be just as vulnerable as before. So, you know, even if the district does pass the vaccine mandate testing is going to remain very important at elementary schools. Speaker 1: 06:32 And what's the consequence. If the district fails to reverse this testing trend, Speaker 2: 06:37 I think we will see a spiral in low income communities where poor people bear the brunt of this virus and they bear the brunt of not being able to go to school. You know? So I think it threatens like the very heart of equity in the district and, and San Diego unified as a district that frequently trumpets its commitment to equity. But I think, you know, in less, uh, this trend gets reversed. Inequitable outcomes are only going to be heightened with low-income students getting to go to school less and, um, their families being more at risk physically from the virus. Speaker 1: 07:18 Well Hunt's Barry is a reporter with voice of San Diego who covers schools and children across San Diego county will thank you so much for your Speaker 2: 07:26 Thank you, Jay.