LA County Adds School Safety Guidelines As Classes Resume And Omicron Cases Climb
As Los Angeles County experiences a surge in new coronavirus cases driven by the omicron variant, public health officials are issuing new safety guidelines for K-12 schools.
The health order applies to all school districts as well as private schools within the county, many of which reopen this week after winter break.
L.A. County reported nearly 45,000 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, with more than a 20% test positivity rate. L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer told schools in a letter that more guidelines would be put in place if hospitalizations top 3,000 patients a day.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Masks are required outside for both students and staff when social distancing isn’t possible, except when eating or drinking.
- Schools must provide staff with upgraded masks, like a KN95 or N95 mask, or surgical-grade mask. Cloth coverings alone are no longer enough, and double masking when wearing a surgical mask is recommended. (Schools have two weeks after school restarts to comply with this).
- Students are now strongly urged, but not required, to wear non-cloth masks with multiple layers that fit well and have a nose wire.
- Within two weeks of school restarting, testing is required for all students and staff regardless of their vaccination status if they’ve been in close contact with someone who’s been infected with COVID-19.
- Universal screening testing isn’t required, but is “strongly recommended as a strategy to prioritize.”
- Booster shots are now strongly recommended for all eligible staff and students. (On Monday, the FDA authorized the Pfizer booster shot for 12-15 year olds).
- Sports teams must stop activities for seven days and get approval from the Department of Public Health before resuming if there’s been an outbreak of four or more cases over two weeks.
- For any group musical activities, masks must be worn both indoors and outdoors. Wind instrument players who haven’t had a booster shot yet must now also get a weekly screening test.
Los Angeles Unified School District, the county’s largest, restarts classes next week. LAUSD officials announced Jan. 3 that all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before they can return to campuses when school resumes next week.
The district also moved the first day of classes to Tuesday, Jan. 11, one day later than planned. Monday will now be designated a Pupil Free Day.