Amid surge in COVID-19 cases, Bay Area health officers affirm in-person school instruction
Despite a summer surge of coronavirus cases, and among the infections local students and staff returning to school, Bay Area health officers reaffirmed their support for sticking full, in-person instruction.
Public health officials, including Sonoma County’s Health Officer Dr. Sundari Mase, said Thursday preventative measures such as masks, social distancing and vaccinations should stop the spread of the virus on school campuses.
In Sonoma County, 68 students and 16 school staff members have contracted the virus during the first two weeks of school. However, only eight of those cases were found to originate on the unidentified campuses.
The Association of Bay Area Health Officials said the harm of suspending in-class teaching and reverting back to online education outweighs the current public health threat.
“The lack of in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic not only disrupted education, but it also weakened social supports and harmed the mental health of students,” the group said in a statement. “The risks and benefits of returning to in-person learning are clearer now than any other time during this pandemic. We must all continue to do everything possible to keep kids safely attending their schools.”
The association said, while children can get COVID-19, severe cases of the infectious disease among kids is uncommon and deaths are exceedingly rare. And while virus transmission can happen in schools, children are most often exposed to the pandemic disease at home or in social settings where safety practices vary.
Mase said COVID-19 cases among students is a small fraction of the up to 70,000 students back on Sonoma County campuses.
The Bay Area association’s statement “reiterates the need for in-person learning for our kids, with all the mitigation measures that we think are really important to keep kids safe at school,” she said.
The association said students and school staff who feel sick or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should stay home, and those who are eligible to get inoculated against the coronavirus should do so.
Among Sonoma County residents age 12 and older, 73.3% are fully vaccinated, according to the county public health data.
On Wednesday, Sonoma County health officials released the latest data on COVID-19 transmission among local students. County epidemiologists found that the majority of the cases — 59% — could not be attributed to any known source of transmission.
Another 23%, or 19 cases, were linked to household or other social close contacts. Four were considered community exposures. Virus spread on campus comprised 10% of cases.
“My feeling is we need to hold tight, continue in-person education, continue to track cases and make sure we have best practices out there,” Mase said.
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @pressreno.