Public Health Supports Schools with Reopening, Prevention Strategies

L.A. County also to update Health Officer Order to bolster contact tracing efforts

PHOTO: Provided by SPUSD | SouthPasadenan.com News | First day of school 2021 in South Pasadena

PUBLIC HEALTH RELEASE

With many school districts countywide now reopening, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health), School Technical Assistance (STAT) teams are reaching out to schools proactively to assess COVID-19 preventive readiness and advise on options for improvement.

During recent visits, STAT educators found that schools with significant safety enhancements have broad support within the school community for promoting/implementing masking guidance. They also have symptom pre-screening tools that allow for early detection of sick students, consistent COVID-19 screening testing programs, and signage campus-wide to remind staff and students about safety, masking, distancing, and sanitation.

Meanwhile, areas for improvement at many schools included preventing crowded situations, creating safety compliance teams, identifying space to use as isolation rooms, and implementing mealtime-specific prevention strategies. Additionally, teams noted the potential for improved communication with parents and faculty about testing and vaccination opportunities and case identification and contact tracing requirements. Many schools would also benefit from more signage, updated reopening protocols and sharing those with the entire school community, and increased disinfection in shared spaces.

Public Health teams plan to add additional support to schools to assist with contact tracing and appropriate quarantining of students and staff. As a reminder, fully vaccinated students and staff at K-12 schools are not required to quarantine as long as they remain asymptomatic during the 14-day quarantine period. Public Health will be sending County staff to schools that identify large numbers of exposed students to help manage quarantining of students and staff, recognizing how stressful and disruptive quarantining is to a stable learning environment and to parents/caregivers.

Participating in contact tracing is critical for ensuring that close contacts get notified that they may have been exposed and need to quarantine to prevent infecting other people if they become infected. This week, Los Angeles County will update the County Health Officer Order to require everyone who receives an isolation order to call Public Health within 24 hours of receiving the order to participate in a case investigation and contact tracing interview, unless they have already been interviewed by Public Health.

It is important to note that identifying close contacts of a confirmed case is always required in all settings, including workplaces, social gatherings, and places of worship, to try to identify and inform those who may be at risk of infection and of spreading COVID-19. Isolation and quarantine are very effective at reducing transmission if implemented in a timely manner.

In K-12 school settings countywide over the week of August 16 through 22, 3,186 new cases were reported, many from LAUSD, where everyone is tested weekly, with the second highest number coming from other K-12 schools in L.A. County. The overwhelming majority of school sites with cases reported only one case. However, 15 LAUSD and 48 other school sites reported 2 cases, and 84 LAUSD and 39 other school sites reported 3 or more cases.

It is worth noting that of the 14 school outbreaks that opened in August, half were associated with school sports. Because youth sports programs are high-risk environments for COVID-19 transmission, Public Health has issued requirements and best practices for youth sports leagues. L.A. County’s current youth sports guidance attempts to align with CDC while not precluding those not vaccinated from engaging in high-risk sports or extracurricular activities and instead adding in layers of protection.

Thursday, Public Health confirms 31 new deaths and 3,226 new cases of COVID-19. Due to the increased volume of testing in L.A. County, there have been recent delays in the processing of lab results into our data systems. Recent days have been underreported and Thursday’s counts include backlogged data from prior days that were processed into the system yesterday. Public Health is working on increasing the processing speed and capacity and expect processing will soon keep up with the increased testing volume.

Of the 31 new deaths reported Thursday, five people who passed away were over the age of 80, seven people who died were between the ages of 65 and 79, 12 people who died were between the ages of 50 and 64, four people who died were between the ages of 30 and 49, and one person who died was between the ages of 18 and 29. Two deaths were reported by the City of Long Beach. To date, Public Health identified 1,394,488 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 25,181 deaths.

There are 1,731 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 27% of these people are in the ICU. Testing results are available for nearly 8,012,000 individuals with 16% of people testing positive. Thursday’s test positivity rate is 2.7%, a decrease from last week’s same-day rate of 3.7%.

“To everyone who has lost friends and family during this difficult time, we are wishing you peace and comfort, and our prayers are with you,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “Staying away from others when you are sick or have been exposed means you’re less likely to spread infection to others – and that makes it less likely that the other people will need to quarantine themselves. Participating in case investigations and contact tracing and following isolation and quarantine orders can make the difference between having a handful of kids or hundreds of kids out of school. For kids in middle school and high school, the best way to keep your school open is to get vaccinated if you are eligible. When you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to catch COVID-19, even if you’re exposed. That means that even if you’re exposed, you do not need to quarantine. And you’re less likely to get really sick if you do get infected, which means a quicker return to life as usual once an infection resolves.”

As of August 22, 90% of L.A. County residents 65 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 75% of residents 16 and over and 74% of residents 12 and over. Sixty-four percent of residents 12 and over have been fully vaccinated. Of L.A. County teens between the ages of 12 and 17, 61% have received at least one dose and 53% are fully vaccinated. Out of the nearly 10.3 million L.A. County residents, including those who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, 63% have received at least one dose, and 55% are fully vaccinated. Countywide, 17,364 third doses have been administered to immunocompromised people.

Among the more than 5.2 million fully vaccinated people in L.A. County, Public Health identified 32,678 people fully vaccinated who tested positive for COVID-19 as of August 24. While this is an increase of 20% from last week, less than 1% of all those vaccinated have become infected with COVID-19. Of those who tested positive, 881 were hospitalized, up from 742 the week prior. This translates to 0.017% of all fully vaccinated people. Deaths in this group over this interval increased, from 68 to 95, to 0.0018%. In these incremental increases, we see the reality that vaccines do not provide 100% protection from infection. When the community transmission is high, more fully vaccinated people are likely to get infected. However, we also see in these numbers the reality that fully vaccinated people continue to be extraordinarily well protected from hospitalization, and continue to be very unlikely to die from COVID-19.

Teens 12 and over can receive Pfizer vaccine at any County and city sites without an appointment. Additionally, many school districts and individual schools, including Los Nietos Middle School, Whittier Union, and Wilsona, are offering vaccinations over the next few weeks. LAUSD, which has over 45 standing school sites, will be rolling out a mobile vaccine campaign administering vaccines at every middle and high school in its district. You can ask your school site for a vaccination schedule.

Visit: www.VaccinateLACounty.com (English) and www.VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish) to find a vaccination site near you, make an appointment at vaccination sites, and much more. Vaccinations are always free and open to eligible residents and workers regardless of immigration status. If you don’t have internet access, can’t use a computer, or you’re over 65, you can call 1-833-540-0473 for help finding an appointment, connecting to free transportation to and from a vaccination site, or scheduling a home-visit if you are homebound.

COVID-19 Sector Protocols, Best Practices, COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard, COVID-19 Surveillance Interactive Dashboard, Recovery Dashboard, and additional actions you can take to protect yourself, your family and your community are on the Public Health website, www.publichealth.lacounty.gov.