Advertisement

Los Angeles County offers guidelines for schools that decide to reopen

A child shows his mother his schoolwork at Center Street School in El Segundo in June.
Sid, 6, shows his first-grade work to mom Tara Vijayan after they picked it up at El Segundo’s Center Street School in June.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County public health officials have announced new guidelines for school districts that choose to resume in-person learning in the fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, warning that things will look very different on campuses when students and teachers return.

Officials said Monday that children in L.A. County’s 80 school districts would be required to wear face coverings, with such exceptions as during nap time, and the use of hand sanitizer will be encouraged, especially among younger students. Social distancing practices will be maintained, and team sports that don’t allow for physical distancing will not be permitted.

“I want to assure you that we are committed to working closely with the school districts,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

There’s currently no clear threshold for when a school may be deemed unsafe, but just like businesses, schools would need to report a cluster of three or more cases to the health department. As of right now, there’s no plan for testing students regularly.

Advertisement

“It’s not a one-size-fits-all” approach, Ferrer said.

The news comes on the heels of a decision by the Los Angeles Unified School District to keep its campuses closed in the fall. Schools will instead continue with online learning until further notice, Supt. Austin Beutner announced Monday.

The state is seeing a massive spike in coronavirus cases, worrying health officials about further reopenings and forcing the re-closure of some facilities. On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the suspension of indoor operations at fitness centers, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons and other personal care facilities, as well as malls and places of worship in more than 30 counties on the state’s watch list. The order, which also prohibits indoor protest and the closure of noncritical workplaces, affects all Southern California counties, including Los Angeles, and comes weeks after officials greenlighted various reopenings throughout the state.

Advertisement

Newsom also ordered the statewide closure of all indoor operations at restaurants, bars, wineries, zoos and museums. The decision previously had affected only L.A. County and other areas that had seen a spike in the rate of positive test results for infections and a surge in hospitalizations.

“This virus is not going away anytime soon,” Newsom said during a news briefing Monday.

The state has seen coronavirus cases and hospitalizations skyrocket in the last month as the economy reopened and residents returned to socializing.

Los Angeles County remains a hot spot of COVID-19. More than 133,600 people have been infected, and 3,822 have died. Officials on Monday announced 13 additional coronavirus-related deaths and more than 2,590 infections. The county accounts for the bulk of the state’s 326,187 infections and 7,053 deaths.

Advertisement

“While our death rate has remained relatively stable,” Ferrer said, “we anticipate that, unfortunately, with the rise of hospitalizations, we will soon see a corresponding increases in the number of people who pass away.”

The county continues to see outbreaks at various businesses. Los Angeles Apparel, a South L.A. garment manufacturer that shifted operations to produce and distribute face masks, shut down after 300 employees were infected by COVID-19 and four employees died from the virus.

The L.A. County Department of Public Health first shut down operations June 27 after inspectors found “flagrant violations” of public health infection control orders and said the company failed to cooperate with an investigation of a reported coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, the department ordered the continued suspension of the operation.

California failed to establish an effective coronavirus testing system early on, leaving it far behind — even now — in the fight against COVID-19.

Advertisement

At a fire station serving Los Angeles International Airport, 20 firefighters have tested positive for the virus. One firefighter is hospitalized, Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Peter Sanders said Monday.

Fire Station 80 handles aircraft and equipment-related calls at LAX’s airfield but doesn’t respond to calls for fires or medical aid at the airport’s terminals. A total of 48 firefighters work at the station, Sanders said.

One firefighter tested positive about two weeks ago. Other firefighters at the station then got tested on their own time at a private facility over the July Fourth holiday weekend, Sanders said.

Firefighters from others stations with aircraft-related training are taking on the shifts of those who are out, Sanders said.

Advertisement

Los Angeles World Airports spokeswoman Becca Doten said staffing levels had not fallen below those required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Doten said the airports division had notified the FAA of the outbreak “out of courtesy and for situational awareness.”

In L.A. County, 2,056 people are hospitalized for the virus — 28% of whom are in intensive care. The current number continues to remain significantly higher than the 1,350 to 1,450 daily hospitalizations seen just four weeks ago.

That number continues to rise throughout the state, a reality that is straining hospital capacity.

Advertisement

In San Francisco, the weekly rate of hospitalizations for COVID-19 has nearly doubled. The city remains in “a very vulnerable situation” the city’s Public Health Director Dr. Grant Colfax said Monday during an online forum. The city has nearly 4,600 cases of the virus — about 1,000 of which were diagnosed in just the last two weeks, and 50 residents have died from the virus.

Nearly half of all those who have tested positive in the city are Latinos, he said. The positivity rate is now at 7.8 for every 100,000 residents, he said.

“This indicates the virus is spreading throughout the city, particularly in the Southeast part of city,” Colfax said.

For every one person who contracts the virus, another 1.25 are now infected, he said.

Advertisement

“We really need to drive that down to one or below as quickly and as soon as possible.”

This rate of transmission in San Francisco was previously as low as .85. If unchanged, Colfax said, the number of deaths in San Francisco could increase from 50 to 890 by the end of the year, according to modeling. He urged people not to socialize with other households, especially indoors, and it’s believed that time spent outdoors is 10 to 20 times safer than inside.

Experts estimate that vaccines won’t be widely available for 12 to 18 months. Colfax said vaccine trials in the city may start as early as next month.

That rate of transmission has increased elsewhere, including L.A. County, where officials have previously projected that 1 in 140 residents are unknowingly infected with the virus.

Advertisement

“The virus currently rages on in our community,"Ferrer said.

Times staff writers Dakota Smith and Maura Dolan contributed to this report.


Advertisement