The San Diego Unified School District announced new, stricter standards to protect staff, teachers and students from COVID-19.
The district asked a team of scientists at UCSD to give recommendations on what it will take to safely reopen schools and what schools should look like when they do reopen. The bottom line is schools will not reopen any time soon, and when they do it will be a slow, deliberate and phased process.
‘We really should not be opening all our schools fully the way other countries have until what is going on in our community as far as disease incidents and the way they are traced is like it is in other countries,” said Doctor Howard Taras, a UCSD researcher and pediatrician for the district.
Taras and her team at UCSD recommended the district not only meet the state standards for reopening schools, but also satisfy the stricter county standards.
SDUSD's conditions for reopening are as follows:
- 14-day case rate below 100 (Number of cases per 100,00 residents) measured using date of illness onset with a 3-day lag
- Testing positivity rate of less than 8% of positive tests as a percent of total tests, measured using specimen collection date in a 7-day period with a 7-day lag
- Less than 10% increase in the average number of confirmed COVID-19 patients hospitalized
- Availability of more than 20% of staffed ICU beds and of 25% of ventilators
- Fewer than 7 outbreaks over a 7-day period
- More than 70% of investigations are initiated within 24 hours of notification of a positive case (also over a 7-day period)
- Click here for the district's full reopening criteria
Board Vice President Richard Barrera said even when the stricter standards are met, students will not be brought back all at once.
“We will certainly begin thinking about who the students are most in need of being in person, and then from a health standpoint, younger students first, as you move to older students,” said Barrera, “But even with an elementary school you shouldn’t just bring 500 students back on campus all at one time. You should do it in stages, maybe start with fewer than 25% of students in a school.”
As far as what schools will look like when they do reopen, masks will be a requirement for all students regardless of age, and some staff will be required to wear surgical-quality masks.
"Masks are first and foremost," said Board President John Lee Evans. "Absolutely necessary."
There must be available testing for anyone showing symptoms, good contact tracing and good air quality. A big focus will be on making sure schools have good ventilation or space to learn outside.
Campuses will also have isolation areas for students or staff who begin showing symptoms at school.
There will also have to be money from the federal government to pay for the safety measures on an ongoing basis, said Barrera. The district recently spent $11 million on PPE alone.
The new school year starts with distance learning on August 31.