Dear Superintendents and School Leaders,
I’m writing with updates on several COVID-19-related items that have come up since my last message.
Legal Advisory on Testing
As schools across San Diego continue to prepare for an in-person return to campus, questions concerning COVID-19 testing of employees and its role in reopening schools have emerged. Consequently, we have received inquiries on whether as an employer, a district or school may institute mandatory testing of its employees as they resume in-person work activities.
Generally, the law permits employers in circumstances such as these to mandate that their employees get tested for COVID-19 as a business necessity. This advisory
from the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) general counsel provides an overview of regulations and guidance concerning employee testing along with frequently asked questions that provide additional information on this issue.
Recommended Criteria for Closing Classes/Cohorts, Schools, and Districts
With many schools reopening for in-person instruction, SDCOE created this summary
of California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance on cohort, school, and district closures. SDCOE’s recommendations, which build on CDPH guidance, are provided in the document in addition to citations from CDPH materials. District and school leaders should always consult with the Public Health Services, Epidemiology Branch before deciding to close a class, school, or district to in-person instruction.
Epidemiology Communication Flowchart and Updated Decision Tree
SDCOE worked with the County of San Diego to create a process for schools to consult with the county’s Epidemiology Branch in the event of a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19. This process flow chart
is a companion to the COVID-19 Decision Tree
, which has been updated and is now also available in Spanish
Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a tool to help school leaders make decisions about when and how to safely open schools for in-person learning. The Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making
include measures of community spread and a self-assessed measure of school implementation of key mitigation strategies.
SDCOE is in the process of creating a dashboard that will allow school leaders to use the indicators as another way of assessing risk at the local level. We will share a link to the dashboard when it is completed next week.
Gov. Newsom Signs Two COVID-19-Related Employment Bills
Senate Bill (SB) 1159
, effective Sept. 17, 2020, amends existing Workers’ Compensation laws to provide protections to any worker who tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of going to work between March 19 and July 5, 2020. SB 1159 creates a disputable presumption that death or illness related to COVID-19 is compensable under Workers’ Compensation laws for employees who tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of working between March 19 and July 5, first responders, and all other employees who test positive during an outbreak. An outbreak exists if, within 14 days of a place with 100 or fewer employees, four test positive; in a place with 100 or more employees, 4% test positive; or the health department or school superintendent orders the workplace closed due to a risk of COVID-19 infection.
Employees who are performing distance learning or working from home are not included in this presumption. Employers must respond to claims in a timely way (within 45 days of filing) and notify their claim administrator about those who they have reasonable knowledge of testing positive along with the number of employees who were working 45 days prior to the infected employee’s last day.
Assembly Bill (AB) 685
, effective, Jan. 1, 2021, requires an employer to provide written notice within one business day to all employees who were at the same worksite as an employee who has tested positive, been ordered to isolate due to exposure, or has died from COVID-19 during the infectious period. Employers are also required to notify these employees with information and options on COVID-19-related leave and relevant civil rights protections. All employees should be notified of the disinfection and safety plans the employer plans to complete.
When an outbreak occurs of more than three confirmed positive cases within a two-week period among employees who live in different households, the employer must notify the public health department within 48 hours of the names of other employees who may have been exposed.
Health Equity Metric
The state’s guidelines for safely opening our economy have been adjusted to include a health equity metric
that will be used, along with other metrics, to determine a county’s tier rating.
It is important to note that this metric will be utilized to assess advancing to a more permissive tier; it will not cause a demotion in tier.
It has been clearly documented that certain communities — including low-income neighborhoods, areas that a high proportion of essential workers call home, and certain communities of color — have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 in terms of higher rates of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths. The health equity metric helps identify where the county needs to invest more outreach, testing sites, and resources to address those negative outcomes.
SDCOE's partners in Baja California have reported an increasing number of American-born students who are matriculating in Mexican schools. According to their informal research, there are 49,760 American-born children living in Baja California and enrolled in schools there, with 8,650 in preschool, 26,125 in K-6, and 14,985 in grades 7-12. About 75% of the students are from California, and half of those are from San Diego County.
Thank you for all you are doing during these unprecedented times. Please don't hesitate to get in touch if I can be of assistance.
Dr. Paul Gothold
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools