For millions of people in California, reopening schools depends on testing

SACRAMENTO – With the Omicron variant raging across California, millions of school children returned to class on Monday, ending the holi...

SACRAMENTO – With the Omicron variant raging across California, millions of school children returned to class on Monday, ending the holidays as many had – masked, distant, fearful and in long lines with their parents, scrambling for coronavirus tests.

Few schools have been closed in a state whose Covid-19 precautions have been among the most aggressive in the country. California has succeeded in keep rates relatively low deaths and hospitalizations linked to the virus.

But infections have recently increased due to the highly contagious variant, which appears to lead to less severe cases. In hundreds of districts, face-to-face teaching was conditioned by increased health demands and assumed that even these might not prevent a return to distance learning.

“Frankly, the disturbance I’m worried about isn’t day 1 – it’s day 2, 3 or 4 if we get 30, 40 or 50 positive cases,” said Alex Cherniss, the director of the Unified School District. of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, where, after days of heated community debate, some 10,000 students from coastal Los Angeles County returned to class on Monday.

“People are exhausted here,” he said.

California’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, was not due to resume classes until next week. But on Monday, the district issued new rules requiring basic testing as a condition of returning to campus, regardless of immunization status. Previously, testing was optional for vaccinated and asymptomatic students and employees.

In many other districts, reopening classrooms on Monday also depended on new rounds of coronavirus tests.

In Marin County, students had received kits to test for the virus before returning to campus. In Sacramento County, families stood for hours on weekends at test sites hastily erected by school districts or enjoyed an infusion of six million take-home tests that the state supplied to districts in California as Omicron began to grow.

“We did two tests at home and he’s doing fine,” Emily Ramey said as she dropped off her youngest child at suburban Sacramento middle school. “I just hope everyone has tested it too.”

Los Angeles Unified is already running the nation’s largest weekly coronavirus screening program in schools, but county health officials have stepped up other measures that will affect the hundreds of thousands of students and school system employees , as well as those from private schools and nearly 80 other public school districts.

New health rules starting Jan. 1 mandate, for example, that returning students in all districts of the county wear face masks not only indoors but also outdoors during recess, and that employees of school switch to medical grade N95 or KN95 face coverings.

Gov. Gavin Newsom reiterated that the state is “committed” to keeping classrooms open and last month pledged to make home testing kits “available to all public school students from kindergarten through. grade 12 as they return to class after winter break ”.

But not all districts had received their allocation on Monday. San Francisco schools have multiplied mobile testing sites throughout the city and have strongly encouraged students to get tested before returning, in part because they won’t receive their state test assignment until later this year. week.

In Palos Verdes, Mr Cherniss said concerns over Omicron almost prompted the district to postpone the reopening until next week. But when he announced he was thinking about it, he said, the parents’ outcry was fierce. Eventually, the district chose to reopen as planned, but to strongly encourage students to test before returning.

“We made a big effort this weekend,” he said. “We distributed 2,000 home tests in less than three hours and performed another 2,000 live tests. Over 100 were positive.

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Newsrust - US Top News: For millions of people in California, reopening schools depends on testing
For millions of people in California, reopening schools depends on testing
Newsrust - US Top News
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