The Los Angeles Unified School District should postpone its requirement to vaccinate students against COVID-19 until next year, its superintendent recommended Thursday, given the system’s already high vaccination rates among 12-year-old students. and more as well as low transmission rates in schools.
Supt. Alberto M. Carvalho said that after consulting with experts, he will ask the district board of directors to suspend the application of the mandate until July 1, 2023, at the earliest. This would bring California’s largest school district on schedule for a statewide student vaccination requirement.
“Our system’s ability to pivot shows that we are a science-based school district and the health and safety protocols we adopt are influenced by expert advice from our medical partners and public health officials.” , Carvalho said in a statement. “We know that students do better when they learn in the classroom with their peers. Due to high vaccination rates among students 12 and older, low transmission rates in our schools, and our nation-leading safety measures, we have preserved in-person learning in the most sure as possible.
Carvalho said the school board is set to discuss the recommendation and vote on it on May 10. The district employee vaccination mandate remains in place.
LA Unified was the first of the nation’s major school systems to institute a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students. However, the district opted in December to delay enforcement of the rule until this fall — citing both an already high compliance rate and a desire to avoid potentially massive disruption for students.
The vaccination mandate landscape changed further earlier this month, when Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California would not move forward with its planned statewide requirement that school children be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the 2022-2023 school year. The California Department of Public Health said the timeline would be pushed back to at least July 1, 2023.
The change in the state calendar has called into question the school district’s mandate, with at least one school board member expressing interest in aligning with the new state calendar. At the time, board member Nick Melvoin called the state’s postponement a sign of good policy-making as districts try to navigate through “the biggest education disruption in one.” century without a playbook”.
LA Unified Medical Director Dr. Smita Malhotra said the district has demonstrated low rates of transmission with few outbreaks and conditions have improved overall.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, not only have we had the existence of therapeutics to deal with COVID-19, but scientists have also had a better understanding of this virus,” Maholtra said in a statement.
Thursday’s announcement came a day after the LA County Public Health Department released data showing that coronavirus cases among students and staff at county schools doubled in April – a trend according to Officials should re-emphasize the importance of taking precautions, even if the total number of documented infections on campus remain low.
The recent increase comes after many schools resumed teaching after spring break, which development officials and experts said was likely, given travel and gatherings during the holiday period and the rapid proliferation of the highly infectious BA.2 Omicron subvariant.
For the school week before spring break — April 4-8 — 844 students and staff tested positive for the coronavirus countywide, according to health department data. But during the week when classes resumed, April 18-22, there were 1,842 positive test results.
However, a case count of this magnitude represents a relative drop in the bucket for a county the size of LA. And many cases may have been discovered not necessarily because a student or staff member fell ill, but because Los Angeles Unified — the second-largest school district in the nation by enrollment — requires all students and staff involved in in-person instruction undergo weekly testing.
Countywide, 529,000 tests were administered for the week ending April 22, representing a test positivity rate of 0.35%, according to health figures. About 450,000 tests were administered in the week ending April 8, resulting in a weekly test positivity rate of 0.19%.
“While test positivity in schools remains very low, an increase in positive cases is a reminder that students and staff should continue to use common sense safety measures,” the county public health department said in a statement. communicated.
In the first week of classroom instruction after spring break, there were 13 outbreaks at schools across LA County, including six elementary schools, one middle school, two high schools and four associated in youth sports.
That’s up from 11 outbreaks the week before spring break. Of these, seven were in elementary schools, one in middle school, and three in high schools.
“As individuals return from spring break and celebrate spring break, the highly infectious BA.2 subvariant is contributing to the increase in cases and outbreaks throughout the county,” the public health director said. of LA County, Barbara Ferrer, in a statement.
One of the factors for the higher number of coronavirus cases in elementary schools is the lower vaccination rate among students in those grades.
Only 32% of children ages 5 to 11 have completed their primary vaccination series in LA County, compared to 78% of teens ages 12 to 17, according to health data.
COVID-19 vaccines are still not available for younger children. However, Moderna submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday to expand eligibility to people under age 6.
Among people of all ages, LA County averages about 1,700 new coronavirus cases per day, or about 120 cases per week per 100,000 population. A rate of 100 or more is considered high – the worst level on a four-point scale defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
LA County entered the high level of transmission on Saturday, its first time reaching that level since early March.
However, positive coronavirus hospitalizations remained at around their lowest level on record during the pandemic.
It is unclear whether hospitalizations will remain relatively stable and low – given the immunity provided by vaccinations and naturally by people who have survived recent infection – or if they will increase to more worrying levels.
Scientists said they would not be surprised if cases spike further in late summer or early fall, when school resumes after summer vacation; or late fall and early winter, as has happened each of the past two years.
Officials are still urging those who have survived coronavirus infection to keep up to date with vaccinations and boosters, noting that natural immunity wanes over time and does not necessarily protect against a future variant.
“Individuals with risk factors … are at increased risk of serious illness from reinfection,” CDC scientist Dr. Kristie Clarke said in a briefing on Tuesday. “We encourage people to stay completely up to date on their vaccinations, regardless of their history of infection.”