LOS ANGELES, CA, May 18 – Positive cases and test positivity at Los Angeles County schools continue to increase, highlighting the importance of layering in all safety measures as many schools prepare to host end-of-year events and gatherings such as graduations.
The number of cases among students and staff increased nearly four-fold in one month, likely reflecting higher rates of community transmission and the large number of gatherings associated with end-of-year events including proms, school performances, and sport leagues. For the week ending May 8, there were a total of 5,620 positive cases at schools across the county, of which 4,465 were among students and 1,155 among staff. A month prior, for the week ending April 10, there were 1,422 positive cases, of which 1,167 were among students and 255 among staff.
Test positivity also increased this past month at schools from 0.19% for the week ending April 8 to 0.61% for the week ending May 13.
School-associated outbreaks have remained relatively stable this past month with small fluctuations week to week. For the week ending May 14, nine new outbreaks were reported (seven in elementary schools and two in middle schools).
In the past month, larger outbreaks, ranging from 25-60 infected students and staff, have been associated with proms, school performances and events, and field trips.
With higher transmission rates in the community, there is the potential for continued increases in student and staff cases. Minimizing transmission at schools and school events remains a high priority with the Public Health School Support Team offering school partners information, resources, help with outbreak management, and technical assistance to layer in strategies that enhance safety.
Public Health emphasizes that with more spread of highly infectious new variants, all students, staff, and visitors wear well-fitting masks or respirators when indoors. Masking indoors is required for any asymptomatic staff and students who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. This simple step can make a substantial difference, since wearing a face mask or respirator in indoor public settings has been associated with significantly lower odds of testing positive for COVID-19 and masking requirements in schools have been associated with lower risks of outbreaks.
Schools are encouraged to conduct response COVID-19 testing to protect students and staff. Response testing includes ensuring access to testing for students and staff who have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and/or who have COVID-19 symptoms. If resources are available, schools can also offer weekly testing for those who are not fully vaccinated, since these individuals are at elevated risk of becoming severely ill should they become infected and would benefit from an early diagnosis.
Parents and students are expected to follow the isolation and quarantine Health Officer Orders. Students who are required to isolate shouldn’t return to school until they’ve been released from isolation. If they meet the criteria to leave isolation early, they should wear a highly protective mask around others, except when eating or drinking, for 10 days after their symptoms started or the date of their first positive test if they’re asymptomatic.
Exposed asymptomatic students can remain in school, provided they wear a mask indoors when they are around others, for 10 days after their last exposure, and are tested three to five days after exposure, to make sure they aren’t infected.
As a reminder, vaccines continue to provide the best protection against illness and hospitalizations and are the safest way to keep children in school and other activities. This week there are 242 school vaccine clinics scheduled, and these sites offer pediatric doses for ages 5-11, as well as vaccines and boosters for eligible individuals 12 years of age and older.
“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 Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “As we acknowledge the devastation of losing over 1 million people to COVID-19 in the United States, we are obligated to move forward with a renewed commitment to minimizing the most terrible outcomes associated with this virus. To do that, we need additional resources that guarantee access to highly effective vaccines, therapeutics, and testing for everyone, with a focus on those living and working in under-resourced communities. Strategies should be in place that prevent supply chain disruptions from exacerbating risk among essential workers. And sensible safety precautions are needed at schools, so that in-person learning is possible for all, including vulnerable staff and students. Importantly, each of us needs to do our best to protect each other and those in danger of experiencing severe illness or death from the virus. Thankfully, with the many tools at our disposal, we can enjoy gathering with friends and family and participating in the activities we love while reducing unnecessary risk by masking indoors, testing when exposed, ill or gathering, and staying up to date on vaccinations.”
Today, Public Health reported 10 additional deaths and 4,384 new positive cases today. Of the 10 new deaths reported today, six were between the ages of 50-64 and four were aged 80 years or older. Of the 10 newly reported deaths, all had underlying health conditions. To date, the total number of deaths in L.A. County is 32,055.
Public Health has reported a total of 2,922,210 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County. Today’s positivity rate is 3.2%.
There are 363 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized. Testing results are available for more than 11,945,365 individuals, with 22% of people testing positive.