As schools across Los Angeles County begin reopening following months of remote instruction, health officials on Monday noted fewer staff testing positive for the coronavirus after last month’s push to vaccinate teachers.
“Since we began vaccinating educators, we’ve seen more cases in students attending school than in staff, and this is opposite what we saw before, it is new and it’s different,” L.A. County Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a Monday news conference.
The health director said this suggests that “vaccination efforts are having a measurable and immediate impact.”
The L.A. County Department of Public Health also reported just five active coronavirus outbreaks at schools, and they’re all associated with youth sports, not with attending classes.
The county is now considering making updates to its COVID-19 guidance for youth sports, according to the health director.
“We know that masking and distancing can be a challenge in some sports, and that socializing during these activities on school campus could also be a factor in viral transmission among these groups,” Ferrer said.
So far, 77% of public school districts are open, as well as 43% of private and charter schools. That’s more than 1,600 schools open for in-classroom instruction countywide.
Health department staff visiting schools have found that half of all schools were perfectly complying with county safety protocols and the majority of the rest had higher than 80% compliance, according to Ferrer.
“This is great news for our students and our school staff,” she said.
Among L.A. Unified School District schools, all students have to get a coronavirus test in the week before their campuses reopen.
LAUSD schools have upgraded air filters, doubled custodial staff to make sure campuses are cleaned and disinfected, and classrooms have been reconfigured to keep students a safe distance apart, Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday.
Coronavirus case rates among children at schools are generally low compared to infection rates in the community overall. School staff infection rates usually corresponded with what was happening with the community, and not the case rates among students.
“COVID transmission, amongst school staff is driven not so much by their exposure to infection at the school, but primarily by exposure in the community. Whenever community transmission rates were high, there were more cases at schools,” Ferrer explained.
The county reported the lowest daily coronavirus test positivity rate since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The positivity rate stood at 0.7% on Sunday.
Countywide, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths have stabilized over the past few weeks and are at much lower levels than they were during the winter surge.