Marin COVID-19 monitor: School cases ‘lower than expected’ – Marin Independent Journal

The number of new coronavirus cases at Marin schools this fall is on par with a year ago — even though the situation was starkly different then and there was no delta variant, a health official said Thursday.

“These numbers are not higher than last year when we compare apples to apples,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, the county’s deputy public health officer. “In fact, they are lower than expected, demonstrating the effectiveness of vaccination in our community and on the school campus.”

The county reported Tuesday that it confirmed 71 coronavirus infections involving students or school employees for the first three weeks of the fall term. The cases, now logged at coronavirus.marinhhs.org/schools, include 65 students and six staff members.

None was sick enough to be hospitalized, Santora said.

“Hospitalizations among pediatric populations in Marin remain exceedingly low,” she said. “I am only aware of one pediatric hospitalization due to infection since the delta surge. ”

Of the 71 cases, four were suspected as in-school transmissions, according to the database. The rest were from viral spread at home or in the community.

Mary Jane Burke, Marin superintendent of schools, said the database numbers show that Marin is one of the few counties in the state using a strong, methodical approach to control virus transmission in the schools.

“The statistics show that schools continue to be one of the safest places for our students and staff due to the systems and structures in place,” Burke said.

“The very extensive public health guidance we have been following has resulted in the successful reopening of all of Marin’s schools — with no school closures or classroom-wide quarantines since we began to gradually reopen our schools in the fall of 2020, with a full reopening by spring 2021,” she said.

In some other California districts, such as Cupertino, some parents are calling for a return to remote instruction because of rising COVID infections.

“We know that other communities are struggling with school closures,” Burke said. “Which make us even more grateful that our experience with in-person learning last year has prepared us so well for this school year.”

The county has more than 45,000 students and employees in 116 schools. The number includes nearly 39,000 students.

Mill Valley resident Elizabeth Aldridge, an education data trends observer, calculated that 0.17% of Marin students have tested positive for the virus since school started.

“Which means that 99.83% of the students have not contracted COVID,” she said.

Similarly, she said, 99.91% of school employees in the county have avoided infection.

“Marin has three successful mitigation strategies with high levels of compliance, and the facts validate that we are not in Texas, nor Florida,” Aldridge said. “Testing, masking and vaccinating are working together to keep schools safe.”

Santora said Marin had 61 infections among students and school staffs on Dec. 15, 2020, a week after the Dec. 8 lockdown. The infections happened during Marin’s plunge to the purple tier of high virus transmission under the state’s color-coded “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” system, which has been discontinued.

“Under the blueprint, there were significant restrictions in activity which significantly lowered risk of COVID transmission on the school campus,” Santora said.

This year, with almost 39,000 students on campus amid looser safety restrictions, the COVID case levels are almost on par with last year, when “there was much smaller number of students attending school full-time in-person,” Santora said.

“This year there are very few restrictions on staff, families, students — including ineligible, unvaccinated students, or 5- to 11-year-olds,” Santora said.

“We also have easier access to testing — including home-based testing — and more rapid results, with turnaround at less than one day,” she said.

“This demonstrates, with high confidence, that a multi-layered approach to in-person instruction is highly effective at reducing the risk of COVID transmission across the county,” she said.

Santora and Burke will participate in webinar about coronavirus safety in the schools at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Details and access instructions are available at marinschools.org.

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