Recently released guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control direct that most schools in San Diego County should not reopen, but those advocating for a return to campus say it's not as simple as that.
“I guess it’s a little bit [like] … a day late and a dollar short, in terms of being able to reopen schools," said Scott Davison, who is with the Parent Association of North County San Diego, a group advocating to re-open schools.
Davison said the fact the CDC used transmission rates to determine its guidelines belies the data showing students are safer in schools where safety procedures are in place.
“The real problem is that the guidelines are extremely conservative and not reflective of the evidence of the schools that have already reopened in areas where…. case rates are pretty high,” Davison said.
For his part, teacher Matthew Schneck said, “Community spread matters.” He's been teaching for 10 years at a high school in the San Diego Unified School District. Most of his students live south of Interstate 8. He said he's heard stories of heartbreak from his students who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and whose families have contracted the virus.
“I’ve definitely had multiple cases in my virtual classroom, and heard from students and their families when they’ve had to deal with COVID that essentially goes through the entire household," Schneck said. "It’s not just one person.”
A map of San Diego County using CDC data was put together by a data analyst opposed to reopening schools. Even using the CDC’s less-restrictive measures to calculate rates, it shows San Diego County is in the CDC's red zone, meaning transmission rates are too high for most schools to reopen safely.
“Either way, our community spread is too high if you're looking at the CDC data or the California data -- our spread is the highest possible tier or the highest possible zones,” Schneck said.
The debate over reopening schools now includes the CDC guidelines, which are just that – guidelines. It's up to the state and local governments to determine how and when schools should re-open.
To Schneck, that means the community must be vigilant.
“If the community isn't doing their part, if people are not following the basic guidelines of universal masking, social distancing … if we see [community transmission] continue to increase, we can't open schools,” Schneck said.
To Davison, when it comes to transmission rates, the CDC guidelines as they relate to community spread are irrelevant.
“It seems like either your school district already reopened and had a plan in place and is already moving toward that goal, or they’re not, and I think the CDC guidance is not going to change that,” Davison said.