L.A. County Meets Threshold to Reopen Grades TK-6
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) has confirmed 120 new deaths and 1,260 new cases of COVID-19. The lower number of deaths and cases may reflect reporting delays over the holiday weekend.
To date, Public Health identified 1,169,550 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 19,215 deaths. There are 2,964 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 31% of these people are in the ICU.
Today, the state updated the metrics that characterize the amount of transmission in a county and what restrictions must be followed to reduce transmission. L.A. County remains in the purple tier and transmission continues to be widespread. Los Angeles County's adjusted case rate is now 20 cases per 100,000 people and our seven-day average daily test positivity rate is 7.2%. The average daily cases, adjusted case rate, and positivity rate are steadily declining after peaking in January.
LA County’s adjusted case rate has remained under 25 new cases per 100,000 people for five consecutive days, meeting the State requirements for schools to open on-site learning for grades TK through 6. Students in grades TK through 6 are permitted for on-site learning if the school is in full compliance with state and county directives. Many of the directives are not new and very familiar to schools that re-opened under the waiver program or for services for high need students. These include:
Masking and distancing will be required for all staff and students.
Infection control happens everywhere.
Each classroom must form a stable group with fixed membership and they may not mix with other groups, meaning all onsite school activities will happen with this same cohort of students and adults. The size of the stable group is dependent on ensuring optimally 6 feet of distance between students and teachers.
Schools are required to immediately report to Public Health clusters of 3 or more positive cases of COVID-19 that have occurred within 14 days of one another.
Schools are required to complete and post the County’s school re-opening checklist that demonstrates compliance with all required safety protocols.
The state added the following additional requirements:
Schools must complete a COVID-19 Safety Plan that includes establishing the CAL/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Program.
Schools are required to consult with labor, parent and community organizations regarding re-opening plans.
Schools must ensure sufficient ventilation in classrooms and shared spaces per the ASHRAE (American Society of heating, refrigerating, and air conditioning engineers) guidance on ventilation and have an appropriate professional evaluate the ventilation system in regards to the ASHRAE guidance.
Schools are required to have a testing plan that includes symptomatic testing and surveillance testing.
Public Health will be conducting site visits providing technical assistance to schools and helping schools manage outbreaks when they occur.
It is understandable some parents may not currently feel comfortable sending their children back to school for onsite learning. Schools offering on campus learning opportunities should also continue to offer 100% distance learning opportunities. Please remember that it is the decision of the school district or the school as to whether they will reopen for onsite learning for grades TK through 6.
Elementary schools in LA County fall into two groups: those that are already open for in-classroom instruction for an entire class of students in grades TK-2 through the waiver program and those that are not open for full-grade in class instruction.
Schools already open through an approved waiver need to post their COVID Safety Plan (CSP) prior to expanding in-class instruction to students grades 3 through 6. There are 297 elementary schools with approved waivers.
Schools not yet open need to submit their required COVID Safety Plan for review by CDPH and LA County Public Health, along with completing the county re-opening protocol checklist. If no concerns are noted in seven working days by either the state or county health departments, they are permitted to open on day eight as long as they follow the safety requirements and protocols detailed in state and county directives.
Twelve school districts have submitted their CSPs and are currently approved for re-opening, including LAUSD. Two districts are pending review of their CSPs. One hundred and seventy-three private or charter schools have submitted their CSPs, which have been reviewed, and these schools can re-open, and seven private or charter schools have CSP s under review.
For grades 7 through 12, reopening will not be permitted until our case rate drops below 7 per 100,000 people.
Public Health is working in partnership with Los Angeles County school districts to establish the Public Health Ambassador Program for students and parents. This program will actively engage school communities in preventing and reducing the spread of COVID-19 by empowering students and parents as essential partners in each school’s prevention effort. The Ambassador Program will build a coalition throughout school communities that promotes the responsibility of each person—school leadership and staff, students, and parents—to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The effort will emphasize the importance of school community members not only consistently implementing the elements of Public Health’s reopening protocols on school campuses, but also using core infection prevention practices whenever individuals are in the broader community outside of their households.
“To everyone who has lost a loved one or friend to COVID-19, our deepest condolences go out to you,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “While we remain attentive to the potential for outbreaks in schools, the data both nationally and here in L.A. County indicate that schools are not high-risk settings in terms of transmission of COVID-19 as long as they are following safety requirements and protocols. It is important to understand that, when cases increase overall in L.A. County, this has a ripple effect on cases of COVID-19 among staff and students in our schools. It is clear that, in order to keep schools open and our students and school staff safe, we as a community must work to keep transmission across the county as low as possible."
Outbreaks in schools that re-opened were relatively rare as the protocols in place prevented significant transmission at school sites. Nonetheless, like cases, outbreaks in schools also increased during the surge and have been declining steadily in January. There have been a total of 86 K-12 school-affiliated outbreaks since Sept 1, 2020. Of the 86 outbreaks, 66 involved fewer than 6 cases; most were 3-4 cases. Only two outbreaks involved slightly more than 12 cases, and this included one office site that provided procurement services that had 25 cases and one site open only to cafeteria workers that had 15 cases.
Of the 120 new deaths reported today, 46 people that passed away were over the age of 80, 38 people who died were between the ages of 65 and 79, 30 people who died were between the ages of 50 and 64, four people who died were between the ages of 30 and 49, and two people who died were between the ages of 18 and 29.
Testing results are available for more than 5,707,000 individuals with 19% of people testing positive.
The Reopening Protocols, COVID-19 Surveillance Interactive Dashboard, Roadmap to Recovery, Recovery Dashboard, and additional things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community are on the Public Health website, www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.