County K-6 schools may reopen for classes
Four Bay Area counties can now resume in-person classes at all public K-6 schools after their rate of new coronavirus cases fell below the state's threshold to reopen schools.
Public schools that have yet to resume in-person classes in San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin and San Francisco counties can now do so under the state's school reopening framework, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Tuesday during a briefing on the pandemic.
Prior to the state's winter stay-at-home order, counties were required to remain out of the state's most-restrictive purple reopening tier for two weeks to begin reopening schools for in-person classes.
Schools that had opened prior to the stay-at-home order taking effect in the Bay Area on Dec. 11 were allowed to remain open for in-person instruction, but unopened schools were barred from doing so.
With the average daily case rate per 100,000 residents for all four counties now under 25 for at least five consecutive days, the state has permitted each county to reopen all K-6 schools if they choose to do so.
"You'll remember just a few short weeks ago, the state was knocking on the door of a case rate of 100 per 100,000 per day," Ghaly said. "So, good news to see a number of counties below 25."
Schools with grades 7-12 that have already reopened are also allowed to continue providing in-person instruction under the state's reopening framework for schools.
However, schools with those higher grades that have not yet opened will have to wait for their county to leave the purple tier to do so, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Leaving the purple tier requires a county to record a rate of new cases per 100,000 residents below seven and a coronavirus test positivity rate below 8%.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has implored state legislators to approve $2 billion to support schools reopening amid the pandemic as the state works to vaccinate wider swaths of its population.
The fate of that funding package and the timeline for how soon teachers can receive vaccinations remain up in the air and could hamper the number of schools that reopen before spring.
Information on the state's plans for reopening schools can be found at schools.covid19.ca.gov.
Sobering milestone for Santa Clara County
It's been almost a year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Santa Clara County and now the county has reached the unfortunate milestone of surpassing 100,000 cases.
As of Jan. 28, the county had a total of 100,468 cases, of which 1,344 people have died.
"I am very sad," said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county's COVID-19 testing and vaccine officer. "(The death toll) is not a number, it's a person. It could represent your parents, your brother, your sister."
But, Fenstersheib said, the county's swift response likely prevented more deaths.
In early March, Santa Clara County was among the first counties in the state to impose a stay-at-home order and since then, has kept various forms of lockdowns in effect.
And with vaccinations ramping up, the county is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
As of Jan. 28, the county has administered 185,535 doses of vaccine — of which 147,838 were first doses and 37,697 second doses — making up 8% of all county residents over 16 years old, Fenstersheib said.
Fenstersheib and Dr. Jennifer Tong, associate chief medical officer for the county's medical center, emphasized equity as a "top priority" in vaccination distribution.
This means ensuring vaccine availability to residents 65 years and older, the Latinx community and individuals living in East San Jose.
So far, the county has made "substantial progress" in vaccinating those 75 years and older, Fenstersheib said.
About 28%, or 1 out of every 4 residents 75 years and older, have received the first dose of vaccine.
This is significant as residents 65 years and older made up 80% of COVID-19 deaths.
"Again, with the high mortality rate in our senior citizens, getting the vaccine into the arms of our seniors in this community will go a long way to preventing further deaths and hospitalizations," Fenstersheib said.
Comprehensive COVID-19 coverage
View interactive charts tracking the spread of the coronavirus in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties online at paloaltoonline.atavist.com/tracking-the-coronavirus. Find a comprehensive collection of coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by The Almanac and its sister publications, Palo Alto Online, and the Mountain View Voice, at tinyurl.com/c19-Almanac.
CalMatters and Bay City News Service contributed to this report.
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