Despite New Daily Record of Covid Cases, LA County Eyes Reopening Schools

A sample is taken from a child’s nose at a mobile coronavirus testing site at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles last Wednesday. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LOS ANGELES (CN) — Los Angeles County health officials blame a state agency for a reporting backlog on Wednesday as they reported 91 Covid-related deaths and 4,800 new infections, a new daily record.

LA officials report say a backlog from a state reporting agency since this past Thursday accounts for over 2,000 new infections in Wednesday’s report. Over 1.6 million tests to detect the novel coronavirus have been administered with a 10% positivity rate, said LA County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.

Despite the continued spread of the virus, LA County is working on guidelines to allow school district to reopen for in-person classes this fall. California will give discretion to local health officers on when public and private schools should reopen for in-person classes and LA County will launch a new application process later this week that will allow school officials to apply for that waiver.

Parents groups, teacher unions and other groups will need to participate in the application process to reopen K-12 schools, Ferrer said, and the overall process will involve consultation with the California Department of Public Health.

Ferrer said while children are less likely to be infected with the virus and less likely to experience severe symptoms when they are infected, they can still spread the virus to older people.

“This doesn’t mean Covid-19 is a completely benign disease with children,” said Ferrer.

Child hospitalizations in Florida jumped by 23% just as the Sunshine State is set to reopen its schools.

In LA County, children account for about 8% of confirmed infections among residents. Younger people between the ages of 18-49 account for most new infections now.

All school districts in LA County have been closed since March 13. This past week, the Los Angeles Unified School District — the second largest public school district in the nation — said it would not reopen unless federal dollars poured in to provide testing for all students and faculty.

While there are no firm dates to reopen campuses, guidelines will require students to wear face masks at all times, save young children during nap time. Hand sanitizer will be readily available, physical distancing will be enforced and team contact sports will not be allowed.

“For schools to open effectively under a waiver program, you really need an entire school community to be behind that reopening. You’re going to need teachers and staff to be there to provide high quality learning and you’re going to need parents willing to send their children,” said Ferrer.

Officials say there is a concern that sending students back to school in communities with high transmission rates could exacerbate the situation. That’s especially true in Black and Latino communities, said Ferrer.

Given LA County’s cautious approach to reopening schools, its neighbor Orange County looks positively permissive — and combative: The board of education there has voted to sue the state of California to allow schools to reopen this fall.

The Orange County Board of Education plans to sue Governor Gavin Newsom and the state’s public health officer. The law firm Tyler & Bursch is representing the board pro bono.

“California children have a constitutional right to both an education and equal protection under the law,” said attorney Jennifer Bursch in a statement. “The governor denied them these rights and did so without adequately considering the disparate impact these restrictions would have on the disadvantaged.”

Orange County — which reported 439 new infections and 6 deaths Wednesday — joins a group of parents who sued the state last week to have schools resume in-person classes this fall.

Meanwhile, the economic impact of the pandemic has worsened an already struggling working class making minimum wage. The governor’s office said California will honor a minimum wage increase to $14 an hour set to take effect in 2021. 

Newsom’s office also noted more than 3.6 million taxpayers claimed the state’s earned income tax credit in the tax year 2019. While the amount of the credit varies depending on a person’s family status and their hourly wage, families with children can receive up to $1,000 by claiming the young child tax credit.

Californians received over $1 billion thanks to these credits, Newsom’s office said.

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