With the start of the school year just around the corner, many Bay Area parents and families are concerned about sending their young ones back to the classroom. As COVID-19 cases continue to increase and mask mandates are reinforced, it makes sense to be cautious — but today, the health team released a statement to encourage a return.
This morning, the Association of Bay Area Health Officers — whose members include Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties and the city of Berkeley — reaffirmed their support of 100% in-person school.
"We know that when rates of COVID are high in our communities, cases will appear at schools, just as they do in other settings," the group said via press release. "However, with effective protocols in place – including universal indoor masking, vaccinations of eligible persons, testing, good hand hygiene, staying home when sick and proper ventilation – the data shows that these multiple layers of defense can stop the spread of COVID in school settings."
This release reaffirms the group's statement on June 3, 2021, where they acknowledged the risk of transmission among masked children is low, even with less than six feet of distancing between desks. They further reiterated the support from the Bay Area County Superintendents, who released a statement on July 30, 2021, encouraging all eligible persons to get vaccinated to better prevent transmission.
Dr. Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, said: "It is important for all students to have access to a safe learning environment, and universal mask-wearing and the COVID-19 vaccine are proven to be the two most effective mitigation strategies in preventing in-school transmission of the coronavirus and its variants."
The Association of Bay Area Health Officers further reminds parents and families that severe disease among children is uncommon and death is exceedingly rare. The best way for students to stay protected is for their adult family members to get vaccinated and practice good COVID-19 protocols in accordance with county mandates.
Health officers will continue to monitor the data and caseload to better determine changes as needed, both on a local, state, and national level. Case numbers have risen throughout the country more recently, largely in part to the more aggressive and easily transmittable Delta variant. Yet, with mask mandates returning and more push to vaccinate, the health officers are sure that returning to school should not be delayed any further.
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is the only available option for eligible persons age 12 and older. The two doses of the Moderna vaccine is eligible for all eligible persons 18 and up; the single dose of Johnson and Johnson is available to eligible persons age 18 and up.
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