Dozens Of County Schools On The Brink Of Reopening

Some San Bernardino County elementary schools will reopen as early as next week, officials with the San Bernardino County Health Department have indicated.
A multitude of factors went into the decision to attenuate what has been a key provision of the steps that were taken in March 2020 to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Since that time, the shuttering of the county’s schools have been constant. Now, roughly two months after a surge in the sometimes deadly virus, there has been a lull in its spread, and vaccines against the disease are being widely administered.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who in November and December called for the intensification of the precautions he first mandated eleven months ago before successfully contesting last month a petition to the California Supreme Court brought against him and the State of California by the County of San Bernardino seeking that those restrictions be set aside, has reached the conclusion that the threat brought on by COVID-19, the earliest recognized serious version of the virus with the greatest lethal potential, is on the wane, at least for the time being.
The state last year created a four-tiered, color-coded system intended to chart the seriousness of the outbreak county-by-county based on metrics of the spread of the condition. The rankings range from the most serious or widespread purple or tier one, to substantial red or tier two, to moderate orange or tier three, to minimal yellow or tier four.
From the time the tier ranking system was put in place, San Bernardino County has consistently fallen into the red or purple tier, and remained in the widespread category into the fall and winter of 2020. By November and December, San Bernardino County had the highest known infection rate among the state’s 58 counties, which called into question the rationale for the county’s filing of the legal action against Newsom seeking an exit from the restrictions he had imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Despite the seriousness of the pandemic and the deaths that escalated throughout the fall and into the winter, a general social fatigue with the restrictions had set in amongst a major portion of the state’s population. Groundwork to prepare for the eventual opening of schools began in October.
School districts throughout the state as early as last summer were applying for waivers to allow them to reopen. Ultimately, the state in processing those requests formulated criteria to evaluate them, one of which included how the county where those schools are located stands on the four-tier scale. The state’s coordination with the various county departments of health on the school opening issue involves determining whether the districts have a reopening plan and what each plan consists of. Within the same district, some schools have sought to reopen while others have not. By the middle of November, 109 San Bernardino County elementary schools sought a waiver. All of those, along with others submitted later that month and in December have been evaluated by the state. It appears that all but two of the schools that applied have been granted permission to open. At least 120 other applications to open have been submitted by San Bernardino County schools and remain pending, subject to evaluation.
Not all of the schools now free to open will do so by next week.
In some districts, reopening is largely dependent upon teachers having been vaccinated against COVID-19. The state has now allocated ten percent of California’s allotment of vaccine to inoculate teachers and other school staff members.
As of yesterday, 138 schools in the county had been given approval for their reopening safety plans. All of those schools can reopen at will.
A factor in the permission being granted for reopening is that the county’s new infection rate has been dropping drastically over the last three weeks. According to available testing statistics, the number of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people has been in decline from February 4 onward and had fallen below 25 per 100,000 for four consecutive days, from Monday through Thursday of this week. That compares favorably to the 52 new cases per 100,000 the county logged on February 2.
Another factor in the decision to open schools is the medical community’s recognition that school age children have a relatively strong resistance of COVID-19. This is because children from the ages of 5 to 12 who are educated in elementary school settings historically are sharing among themselves viruses such as the common cold on a constant basis.
These include common human coronaviruses, such as the relatively benign 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 types, which usually manifest in mild to moderate symptoms involving upper-respiratory tract impacts virtually indistinguishable from the common cold. Researchers have theorized that the immunity these children cultivate from those exposures are effective in warding off or attenuating, in the vast majority of cases, COVID-19.
-Mark Gutglueck

Leave a Reply