Dear Superintendents and School Leaders,
I’m writing with updates on several COVID-19-related items that have come up since my last message.
School Employee Testing Strategy to Be Announced Tomorrow
As you know, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends that surveillance testing of school staff for COVID-19 be implemented once schools are re-opened to at least some in-person instruction. Examples of recommended frequency include testing all staff over two months – where 25% of staff are tested every two weeks, or 50% every month – to rotate testing of all staff over time.
The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency is working to put in place a strategy to test our region’s 80,000-plus school employees. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, Dr. Wilma Wooten, and I will announce the strategy at a press conference tomorrow afternoon. I want to make sure you are aware of the broad outlines of the announcement.
There are more than 20 public testing sites throughout the region. Those locations include four no-appointment testing sites in south, north, and central San Diego where everyone is welcome, including school personnel and youth over the age of 12. To expand coverage, the county is adding two additional no-appointment sites, one in the east and one in the north-central part of the county.
These sites will provide access to testing while sites are set up specifically for school personnel. They are in addition to a commitment from CAL FIRE to provide testing accessible to school districts in rural backcountry communities.
As the strategy is put into place, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) team is committed to working with schools on refinements. The SDCOE team will work with the county to adjust the strategy and support school districts, charter schools, and private schools with the logistics of testing. We will also work with the county and with schools to determine the most appropriate places to put testing sites.
Small Group Guidance Issued
Today, CDPH has released long-awaited Guidance for Small Cohorts/Groups of Children and Youth
. The guidance provides definitions, considerations for cohorts and staff, and recommendations for safety precautions. The SDCOE team will review this guidance and be in touch with additional related resources as appropriate.
Waiver Process Suspended
The County of San Diego announced yesterday that it is no longer accepting applications for elementary school waivers. This decision is based on the fact that, as of Sept. 1, all TK-12 schools within San Diego County would be permitted to reopen for in-person instruction if the county’s case rate remains below 100 per 100,000 population for 14 days after coming off the state’s monitoring list. Today is day eight of this 14-day period.
Public Health Order Updated
The item specifically about education now reads:
4. All public, charter, and private schools may hold classes and other school activities only under circumstances permitted by the State and in compliance with the COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Schools and School-Based Programs, and as may be updated or superseded by further State guidance. Institutions of higher education may hold classes or other school activities only under circumstances permitted by the State and in compliance with the COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Institutions of Higher Education and as may be updated or superseded.
This is not intended to allow all schools to operate in-person instruction now, but rather to address the fact that some K-6 programs have received waivers and those schools are permitted to hold in-person education following industry guidance.
Another item in the order, Number 16, requires essential businesses and reopened businesses to (among other things) “require temperature screening of all employees and prohibit entry to the workplace of employees with a temperature of 100 degrees or more, employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms as described by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or employees who have recently been exposed to a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.”
The change is intended to allow employees to self-screen as an alternative to in-person screening. If self-screening is used, employers must ensure that the procedures are robust enough to ensure that all employees are screened and those with temperatures over 100 degrees, who have symptoms, or who have been exposed to persons with COVID-19 are excluded from work.
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