Aug. 27, 2021
Dear Superintendents,

I am writing with several updates since my last message.

Legislative Advocacy
As we discussed today, quarantines, staffing shortages, and cumbersome rules around independent study are threatening to overwhelm school districts. After consultation with the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) legislative advocates, we recommend you to contact your lawmakers individually to share your experiences in school reopening and operations under the current policies. These talking points, which are consistent with messaging being used by advocates across the state, will support your outreach.

Antigen Test Kit Shortage
The County of San Diego has advised SDCOE that it currently does not have capacity to support on-site testing with kits at schools. Further, the county’s supply of BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests is equally impacted, and their limited supply of tests is dedicated to health care facilities.

The county recommends that schools do not send students to county sites as a means to cover the gap. Although the county is increasing testing capacity as fast as it can, many county sites are at capacity. No one will be turned away, but there could be long lines and wait times.

SDCOE and the County of San Diego are advocating with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to provide alternatives during the shortage.

In the meantime, CDPH has shared this recommendation with the county, for schools that are already testing with CDPH Antigen Testing Program or have recently on-boarded and received antigen kits:

  • Inventory your current supply 
  • Conserve your supply and consider stopping antigen testing for surveillance testing and conduct only symptomatic testing and exposure/modified quarantine testing so you have at least a two- to three-month supply 
  • Can use PCR tests via Primary.Health for surveillance testing instead or if you run out of antigen tests (order more PCR tests here; allow two weeks to receive PCR tests)  

Close Contacts Outdoors
County public health is hearing from school leaders who are confused about outdoor exposures and contact tracing. Close contact is defined as being within 6 feet of a person who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, with or without masks, indoors and outside. Contact tracing is required for all close contacts, including those where some or all of the 15 minutes or more was outside.

Clarity on Who is Eligible for Modified Quarantine
The written guidance on modified (in-school) quarantine is very confusing when it comes to outdoor exposures. To be eligible for this form of quarantine, the exposure must have occurred in a school setting (any setting supervised by a school employee) AND the COVID-19-positive person and the student close contact must have been wearing masks during all contacts during the 15 or more minutes that they were within 6 feet of each other, indoors and outside. We have confirmed this answer with the CDPH.

New Template Letters Available
SDCOE has drafted a series of three template emails in English and Spanish for employees around the new vaccination and testing requirements for school employees announced in the Aug. 11 state public health order. The announcement email provides details on the order, options for compliance, and what modes will be accepted for proof of vaccination. The email to employees who have not verified their vaccination status allows schools/district to provide testing details, and a third email is to employees who have verified their vaccination status.

This template letter reminds parents that students should stay home from school if they are symptomatic, have been identified as a close contact of a COVID-19-positive person, or are awaiting results from a COVID-19 test.


Dr. Paul Gothold
San Diego County Superintendent of Schools
phone: 858-295-6641