New data from Los Angeles shows that school Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks are very rare, with less than one percent of students and staff testing positive for the coronavirus since classrooms reopened.

Researchers from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH) have been busy looking at cases of COVID-19 in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools since classrooms reopened in mid-August. 

According to their research, less than 0.1 percent each of students and school staff members tested positive for COVID-19. Furthermore, only about 0.2 percent of people who came into contact with someone who got COVID-19 from the school later tested positive themselves.

More data from the county shows that between Aug. 15 and Sept. 13, 7,995 students and 1,193 staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

More data from the county show that, between Aug. 15 and Sept. 13, 7,995 K-12 students and 1,193 LAUSD staff members tested positive for COVID-19. More than 30,000 students and staff were forced to spend seven days in home quarantine after being in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case. Only 63 of the close contacts went on to test positive, equivalent to 0.2 percent.

LAUSD has about 1.5 million students and 175,000 K-12 staff. This means that only around 0.5 percent of students and 0.7 percent of staff members tested positive for COVID-19 since classrooms reopened.

“This is just slightly higher than the 0.4 percent rate of infection we experienced overall in the county,” said LADPH Director Barbara Ferrer at a press briefing announcing the school district’s infection rate.

“The number of outbreaks happening at schools really is unusually low,” said Ferrer.

According to LADPH data, there were eight coronavirus outbreaks in K-12 settings in the county last week, up from six from the week before that.

The county defines outbreaks as linked cases that involve three or more people in which the transmission most likely occurred at schools or during school-related or school-sponsored activities. Of the eight outbreaks last week, two occurred in high school sports settings and six occurred at elementary schools.

LA County forced to relax school quarantine policies due to data

Because of the very low rate of infection, the county has been forced to relent on its extreme quarantine policies for schools.

The revised quarantine policy allows unvaccinated LAUSD students who come into close contact with a positive COVID-19 case to continue attending classes in person. LADPH is referring to this scheme as “modified quarantine.”

“Modified quarantine allows, under certain conditions, an unvaccinated student with an exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 case to continue in-person instruction at school during their quarantine, while restricting their activities outside of the classroom,” said the Public Health Department in a news release.

These unvaccinated students will be ordered to remain at home when they are not in a classroom for instruction. This means they will be barred from participating in extracurricular activities, including sports, until the end of their quarantine period.

Furthermore, the unvaccinated students have to wear masks at all times, both indoors and outdoors, and they have to remain asymptomatic for the duration of their quarantine. They will be forced to take at least two COVID-19 tests over a seven-day period. These tests must both be negative.

This modified quarantine protocol will only apply if an outbreak of COVID-19 has not been detected at school. If an outbreak is detected, unvaccinated students who are identified as close contacts of positive cases will be sent home for at least eight days.

Vaccinated students who are identified as close contacts do not need to be quarantined provided that they remain asymptomatic.

“We feel comfortable that, with relatively low transmission at schools, it’s appropriate to offer schools a modified quarantine option for K-12 students exposed to COVID at schools,” said Ferrer.

This more relaxed quarantine policy for COVID-19 cases in schools aligns the county with state quarantine guidelines. Before the passage of the more relaxed policy, the county’s quarantine regulations were stricter than the state’s.

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