L.A. County won’t consider school reopening waivers

Los Angeles County Seal.
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Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials announced Tuesday they will not consider school-reopening waivers, adhering to new guidance released by state Public Health officials.

The state’s newly released guidance recommends that counties with case rates at or above 200 cases per 100,000 residents not extend waivers for the reopening of classroom instruction for students from transitional kindergarten to sixth grade.

This comes as L.A. County’s rate currently sits at 355 cases per 100,000 residents, so while Public Health had released waiver applications last week, they will no longer consider applications made at this point in time, according to officials. 

County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents the 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, announced that it was issues with California’s electronic lab system, which resulted in an undercount in the county’s positive cases and affected the number of cases reported daily, that ultimately are to blame for the delay in school waivers. 

“This incredibly frustrating misstep by the state has created a hurdle that the county must address before we can move forward with school waivers,” Barger said in a prepared statement. “I am committed to the social and emotional well-being of children and youth, in addition to ensuring protections for their health. I have requested that the Department of Public Health quickly work to create our own database to provide the positive number of cases within our county and consider a regional matrix, which would allow school districts to apply for waivers based on their case rate.” 

Once the county’s case rate falls to levels recommended by the state, Public Health officials said they will reconsider this decision.

“We know that to many families, this is a disappointing announcement, but it’s based on the existing science and data that is guiding all of our decision-making,” Public Health officials said in a prepared statement. “We need to ensure the health and safety of our children, school teachers and staff and all of their families.”

Even so, teachers, staff and administrators are allowed to return to school buildings, provided they adhere to existing protocols requiring physical distancing and infection control measures, including wearing face coverings.

Public Health is also expected to continue working with all partners to implement infection control strategies known to effectively reduce community transmission and case rates so schools can reopen for in-person instruction as soon as it’s safe to do so.

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