Thousands of students in one South Bay school district will return to wearing masks as COVID-19 cases increase in San Diego County.
South Bay Union School District Superintendent José Espinoza sent a message to parents, students and staff announcing the policy change over the Memorial Day weekend citing county data based on zip codes that shows a high level of COVID-19 transmission in their communities.
Espinoza said masks would be required both indoors and outdoors through the end of the school year, which was June 9, and for all end-of-year events and ceremonies.
"We will continue to monitor the County data through the summer, with the hope that COVID rates will decrease and we can return to optional masking for the new school year," the letter read.
The South Bay Union School District oversees 12 schools and about 6,000 students from pre-school to eighth grade in Imperial Beach, San Ysidro and South San Diego.
The San Diego Unified School District, the second-largest in California, announced last week a masking policy may be implemented for at least 14 days at if certain criteria is met at specific schools:
- If 10% or more of the student population is absent for three consecutive days due to illness
- If, within the past 14 days, at least three outbreaks (3 or more students in an individual classroom/group) have occurred on campus and more than 5% of the school population is infected
No SDUSD school had met the criteria as of Tuesday, a spokesperson said.
San Diego County tracks COVID transmission based on zip codes. The schools affected by the new masking policy fall in areas that were reported to have an average daily case rate greater than 14.3% and a testing positivity greater than 10%. Most of San Diego County's populated zip codes fall within the high transmission range.
Because of those numbers, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also moved San Diego County into a higher tier of transmission based on their criteria, which takes into account hospital bed capacity, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area to determine a transmission level -- low, medium or high. According to their analysis, San Diego County is in a medium level of transmission.
The medium-risk level means that San Diegans who are immunocompromised should consider higher levels of protective measures, like wearing a mask in public, to prevent illness and speak to their doctor about other steps they can take to stay well, the county said.
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A total of 8,854 cases were reported to the county during the past week, compared to 7,008 the week prior, a 26% increase. The numbers represent only the cases reported to county or hospital sites. As the proliferation of at-home tests has increased, the actual number of infections is likely higher. The county only reports COVID-19 data on Mondays and Thursdays.
The number of people hospitalized with a coronavirus infection in San Diego County has increased by 13 to 189, according to the latest state data.