Safely Opening Schools

California Department of Public Health: Bulletin 2

Released May 4, 2022

For the most recent updates regarding the California K-12 School Antigen Testing Program, please subscribe to the California Department of Public Health newsletter. 

For schools enrolled in the Heluna Health rapid antigen testing program, please refer to the Los Angeles County Bulletin.

important notes

Cases: After declining in March, COVID cases and positivity rates have risen throughout April, nationally, and across California, due to a new Omicron subvariant. Hospitalizations have risen somewhat but deaths have not. Masks and testing remain important public health tools to mitigate the spread and impact of COVID. 

Schools Can Order Home Tests now! Public, charter and private/independent schools, as well as camps that serve K-12 students are invited to apply for free at-home tests through a partnership between the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Please complete the order form here

  • Weekly requests are due 12:00 PM PST on Fridays through June 17, 2022.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is pleased to facilitate sharing of knowledge and innovation approaches that are being generated by schools and public health professionals throughout California. Visit this link for current and previous issues including resources and tools that are shared amongst districts. 

POLICY Update 

SB 1479 (Pan)

SOS is proud to support SB 1479 (Pan): COVID-19 School Testing. SB 1479 is an act to require local educational agencies to create and implement COVID-19 testing plans that are consistent with CDPH’s COVID-19 school testing guidelines. SB 1479 provides a statewide testing protocol that ensures that children – regardless of their socioeconomic or racial background – learn in a safer environment. Having a plan in place to test for COVID-19 is fundamental for keeping our schools open and safer. 

  • SB 1479 has successfully passed both the Senate Health Committee and Senate Education Committee.

AB 2107 (Flora)

SOS is also supporting AB 2107 (Flora) which will allow appropriately-trained non-health professionals – who are not school employees, e.g. parent volunteers or a child’s own parent in school and/or community settings – to conduct rapid antigen tests and perform an anterior nasal swab in the small number of children who cannot self-swab, such as some children with disabilities. 

covid-19

Vaccination

While there is promise of a vaccine for children under 5, the youngest people in our communities are still not able to be vaccinated.

SOS is creating messages for teens on the importance of vaccinations. Check out our Instagram, and share with middle- and high-school students.

COVID-19 Testing

Why is it important for students to continue with regular participation in COVID-19 testing at school?

 

  • As we approach the end of the school year, testing still remains a useful tool to limit the spread of COVID. The CDC created a video (available below) to address the importance of students participating in regular COVID-19 testing at school.

    • Private insurance companies are providing coverage/reimbursement for up to 8 rapid antigen tests/person/month. For detailed information about where to get the tests and how to get reimbursement through insurance read this article.

    • Reporting results from at-home tests on the Primary.Health site helps counties keep track of COVID cases in the community (please see below for example). While reporting is voluntary, schools can strongly recommend and encourage reporting by sending consistent messaging, sending custom communications through Primary, as well as doing mass outreach to parents, students, and staff about the importance of reporting.  
    primary.health

    Message from Primary

    For the 2022-2023 school year, Primary.Health will be requiring schools/districts to sign a new MOU. The new consent will be effective 7/1/22-6/30/23. Primary will send out initial communication to schools/districts regarding these efforts. Questions and more information available  SchoolBinax@cdph.ca.gov.

    Community support

    SOS School Visits

    In collaboration with CDPH, SOS has been conducting site visits to districts throughout California. Having the opportunity to be “on the ground” has proven to be a valuable tool for all parties collaborating on the projects. 

    From one district administrator: “Thank you for all these great resources and updates! I do have your drive bookmarked and pursue it periodically, so keep doing this work and thank YOU! Our testing has been going smoothly and we’ve built a great system here at campus that seems to be working for us.” 

    From one vendor lead: “We all really benefited from you coming in.”

    Thank you to all the district staff and vendors for your support! 

    test before you go

    COVID has not ended, why stop testing? 

    Schools can encourage testing, particularly around end-of-year large gatherings, like prom, graduation, and sporting events. 

    Below are examples of how to promote testing for school-based events. 

    In the News

    While a federal judge removed the mask mandate for transportation, the Justice Department appealed the mask ruling after the CDC said that the mandate “remains necessary for public health.” 

    Nearly 100 high schoolers tested positive for COVID when they took off their masks at their prom.

    Now is not the time to lift public health precautions. We have to continue working together to protect one another so that we can keep society safer, open and accessible to everyone.

    district spotlight

    Ravenswood City School District

    Ravenswood City School District in East Palo Alto was able to re-open in February of 2021 – ahead of many districts throughout the state – by setting up a regular COVID-19 testing program. Due to the robust testing program, during the Delta and Omicron surges, Ravenswood was able to stay open (while many schools closed due to staffing shortages). Having a testing program in place allowed them to identify 70 cases on the day before returning to school on January 4. Between January and mid-February 2022, nearly 30% of the students in Ravenswood tested positive. Regular testing at Ravenswood kept positive students and staff at home, limiting spread in classrooms. 

    The success of this district’s testing program is due in large part to the foresight and public health planning of Ann Waterman Roy, Strategic Pandemic Recovery Consultant for the district. Ravenswood has one of the highest testing consent rates in the state, with over 80% of the children participating in the rapid antigen testing program. According to Ann, being able to offer testing to any students who wanted to be tested was really helpful for families who wanted testing to feel safe sending students for in-person school.

    During the Omicron surge, when testing was difficult to come by outside of school settings, community members could also be tested through the district. Consequently, spread to the wider community was also limited. Teachers repeatedly shared their gratitude to Ann for the regular testing program. “Keeping teachers safe translates to keeping students learning safely, in school.” More than 92% of Ravenswood students are foster youth, English Language Learners, or receive free and reduced price meals. 

    %

    5-11 Year Olds Fully Vaccinated

    California School Districts offering rapid testing

    %

    12-17 Year Olds Fully Vaccinated

    Million tests administered in K-12 schools since January 2021

    Contact Us

    Email: training@safelyopeningschools.org

    School Hours: Monday – Friday, 8am – 5pm

    Data reflects testing and cases reported by school districts on the Primary.Health platform and the California Department of Public Health state dashboard.

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    Safely Opening Schools is a project of the Public Health Institute, (PHI) PHI has been a leader in public health and development for over 50 years. PHI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a vision of creating healthy communities where individuals reach their highest potential. Safely Opening Schools is part of PHIs Prevention Policy Group, which works on policy approaches involved in safely opening public schools after Covid-19.