Covid’s stakes in California schools rose two months after masks were removed in the classroom

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As the first school year ends on campus, the level of Covid infection in California is rising again, but with one clear difference: several districts are tightening masks and other restrictions in effect earlier this year, even for large meetings such as prom and prom.

California schoolchildren were told in mid-March that they could officially give up masks while indoors. The announcement from the California Department of Public Health came after several other states made changes to COVID’s policies.

The United School District of San Jose responded to a change in state policy by announcing that masks would be optional.

Yet year-end celebrations have become Covid’s hotspots in some areas. About 90 San Mateo High School students gave a positive result at Covid after a prom at the Museum of Asian Art in San Francisco on April 9th. In Sacramento, 21 people who attended the graduation party of CK McClatchy’s junior high school in the city’s Masonic church on April 23 were tested. positive for the virus.

Outbreaks appear to be exacerbated during this month. Last week, at least 65 Los Gatos High School students tested positive on Covid, and 20 Marin County schools reported new Covid outbreaks. Across the country, the number of new cases of Covid infection has increased significantly in the last month, when more than 158,000 new cases have been added in California during that time.

Covid dashboards, available on the websites of most school districts, show a significant increase in infections from March to April. For example, the Covid cases at San Diego Unified have more than doubled, while the cases at Berkeley and Dublin Unified Public Schools have nearly quadrupled. Infection rates in all three districts and others continue to be monitored this month.

Despite the increase, the number of current Covid infections is much lower than in January. And the requirements for masks, regular Covid testing and social distancing that students experienced at the beginning of the school year have largely disappeared.

“We’re going to go through that, no matter what the increase may hit us,” said Brett McFadden, head of the Nevada Joint Union Union High School District. “We will move forward. We have not seen the degree of the disease we have seen before. “

In the district, which serves 2,668 students in Grasse Valley, there were five Covid cases throughout April and 10 in the first 11 days of May.

The United Nevada Alliance, which renounced its mask mandate because of protests weeks before the state repealed the requirement, is unlikely to return the disguise, even if the state demands it again, McFadden said.

“In connection with the dispute we had two months ago over masks, I think the horse has left the barn,” he said. “Even if the state allowed the camouflage back, I don’t think we’ll see enough compliance with that.”

The increase in the latter cases is partly due to one of Covid’s latest variants – omicron BA.2 – which is more infectious than previous variants but does not appear to increase the severity of the disease. BA.2 is the dominant option in most regions of California.

“We are in a much different situation than at the beginning of the pandemic,” said Dean Bloomberg, a pediatrician at UC Davis who specializes in infectious diseases. “At the start of the pandemic, we had no immunity to Covid. No one has felt this before. It overloaded the health care system. “

Now, Bloomberg says, the virus poses a much smaller threat because much of the population has partial immunity through immunization or previous infection. As a result, the vast majority of those who fell ill during this rise were not hospitalized.

While people should continue to wear masks while inside and strive to maintain social distance from people outside the family, it is impossible to require high school students to wear masks for prom, he said. Ideally, to attend dances that are often held in large rooms, such as gyms, where there is more air to spread the virus, testing and vaccination will be required.

“Most kids aren’t going to wear masks,” he said. “Probably, they will not dance in masks. They will try to kiss or something like that. “

The San Mateo Union High School district, which still requires wearing masks on campuses, does not require them at a prom at an art museum, said Kevin Rocky, headmaster. The district also offered, but did not require, testing before the event.

County policies changed after the outbreak, and all subsequent graduation parties required students to wear masks indoors and show a negative test for Covid. The district also participated in a state pilot program that led to the campus of specially trained dogs to sniff out Covid.

“I just think we tried to do both – be safe and hold a lot of activities for the kids,” Rocky said.

The United School District of Pacific Grove may soon receive a mask mandate again. The district school board agreed in April that it would renew mandates for indoor masks if the seven-day level of positivity in the county increased to more than 5%, and on average seven days per 100,000 Monterey County residents there would be more than 10 cases. On Thursday, the county reached 12.4 cases per 100,000 and had a 4.8% positive.

Esther Kim, a junior and student council at Chino Valley Unified, knows the state has seen a surge in Covid cases, but she doesn’t think it has affected her school district much.

“It didn’t cause as much talk as if Covid had just started,” Kim said. “Everyone is exhausted dealing with the Covid and Covid protocols.”

There were 72 Covid cases in the area on Tuesday, the website said. About a quarter of students continue to wear masks at school, Kim said.

“We’re trying to just get back to normal,” she said. “Everything is personal. Make everyone feel like everyone is back to Covid, and make sure all of our students are recovering from the (emotional) damage that Covid has done. ”

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