The Signal

L.A. County sees COVID-19 outbreaks and cases increase at K-12 schools

Public Health’s specialize­d school support team offers informatio­n, help with outbreak management, resources and more to combat COVID-19 on campuses

- By Michael Picarella Signal Staff Writer

The number of COVID-19 cases and outbreaks among students and staff in Los Angeles County K-12 schools more than quadrupled during the month of April, an increase that’s likely attributab­le to the eliminatio­n of the indoor masking requiremen­t in mid-March, county public health officials said.

In a press release that the Los Angeles County Public Health Department issued Wednesday, the week ending on April 24 saw 3,164 positive cases in K-12 schools, with 2,544 among students and 620 among staff. For the week prior, the release read, there were 1,879 positive cases, with 1,478 among students and 401 among staff.

“I send my deepest sympathies and wishes of peace and comfort to the many families who have lost a loved one from COVID-19,” said Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. “I know many people are tired of the pandemic, they are tired of wearing masks and exhausted trying to deal with the uncertaint­y and ever-changing guidance. It is very tempting to minimize the impact of the virus to support our desire to return to our pre-pandemic lives. Unfortunat­ely, this would be a mistake that could make it harder for us to embrace strategies that extend protection­s while minimizing disruption­s. There continue to be sensible steps we can take to reduce risk and prevent serious illness and deaths among those most vulnerable.”

According to the Department of Public Health, the department’s specialize­d school support team is offering school partners informatio­n, resources, help with outbreak management, and technical assistance to support strategies that enhance safety at schools and at school-sponsored events.

And still, the county strongly recommends that all students and staff wear well-fitting masks or respirator­s when indoors.

Additional­ly, with financial support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Public Health announced that it has partnered with the L.A. County Office of Education and Heluna Health to support COVID-19 testing in public, charter and private schools across the county. Public Health also supports schoolbase­d COVID-19 testing programs and provides testing support on

site, including the distributi­on of more than 8.1 million over-the-counter COVID-19 tests that have been provided by Public Health, the state and the CDC to students and staff in schools across the county.

The county encourages schools to use testing resources to incorporat­e response COVID-19 testing into their regular operations. Response testing, the release indicated, includes ensuring access to testing for students and staff who have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and who have COVID-19 symptoms.

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