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CDC Allows Schools To Reopen Before Teachers Get COVID-19 Vaccines

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Despite the insistence of Los Angeles Unified’s superintendent and the teachers’ union that all educators and staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 before schools reopen, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday vaccinations should not be a prerequisite for returning students to campus.

“I also want to be clear that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe reopening does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “So while we are implementing the criteria of the advisory committee and of the state and local guidances to get vaccination across these eligible communities, I would also say that safe reopening of schools is not — that vaccination of teachers is not a prerequisite for safe reopening of schools.”

The issue of vaccinating teachers and staff has been considered a lynchpin for the reopening of LAUSD campuses. Superintendent Austin Beutner has said schools should not reopen until teachers and staff receive the vaccine, while the United Teachers Los Angeles union has called for vaccines and extensive other safety measures to ensure the safety of educators.

In a recent message to the school community, Beutner said vaccines are “the last piece to help reopen classrooms.”

“This will not only protect the health and safety of staff but will provide enormous benefit to children and their families with a faster reopening of schools and of the economy more broadly by enabling the working families we serve to go back to work,” Beutner said.

The pace of vaccine administration in the county, however, has dragged slowly due to limited supplies, so teachers have not yet become eligible for the shots unless they are aged 65 or older.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has advanced a statewide school-reopening plan contingent on more than $6 billion in funding to provide protective equipment, COVID testing and other safety protocols at campuses. The state’s guidelines call for campuses to reopen for youngest students when local infection rates drop to a seven-day average of 25 new cases per 100,000 residents. Los Angeles County’s current state-adjusted new case rate is 38.7 per 100,000.

Newsom said Wednesday he agrees with the CDC that schools can reopen before teachers and staff are fully vaccinated, as long as adequate safety measures are in place.

“We can safely open schools as we process a prioritization to our teachers of vaccinations and still keep our teachers, our para-professionals — which means bus drivers, our cafeteria workers, janitors that are essential workers to keep our schools safe — and keep our kids safe at the same time.”

Newsom said many schools are already open on a limited basis across the state, with only 87 reported COVID cases in schools last month, despite a statewide surge in cases.

“I’m confident we can get to where we need to go, and that’s safely reopening our schools for in-person instruction starting with the younger grades and those with special needs,” Newsom said. “I say this not academically or intellectually, but as someone with four young kids. The

younger kids are not getting the benefits of distance learning that the older kids are. And I’m very concerned about the equity lens in terms of this conversation, because so many private schools are open. I believe we can safely reopen public schools to in-person instruction with the appropriate level of safety and support and accountability in terms of enforcing the rules of the road.”

UTLA officials have adamantly opposed reopening schools while the county remains in the most restrictive “purple” tier of the state’s economic reopening matrix. Emerging from the purple tier would require the county’s seven-day average new case rate to drop to 7 per 100,000 residents.

Union President Cecily Myart-Cruz blasted Newsom and state officials last week for allowing more businesses to reopen despite elevated case numbers and the emergence of new, more-infectious variants of the coronavirus.

“Educators want to be back in the classroom but as the pandemic continues to ravage our communities, we are the untenable position of fighting to save lives because our elected officials have failed to do so,” Myart-Cruz said. “The state’s inability to stay the course on necessary, life-saving choices once again disregards our communities and people of color who have been risking their lives and dying at disproportionate rates in L.A. County and across the state.”

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L.A. County Sees Increase In COVID-19 Cases Among Staff, Residents At Nursing Facilities

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Los Angeles County is now experiencing an increase in cases among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, public health officials said Tuesday.

The rise is in part due to the highly transmissible Delta variant and a small number of post-vaccination infections among those fully vaccinated, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

Currently, 86% of residents and 85% of staff at skilled nursing facilities are fully vaccinated. For the week ending July 18, 33 people tested positive for COVID-19: six new cases among residents, and 27 new cases among staff.

 For the previous weeks, an average of 22 new cases were reported among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities.

Masks have consistently been required in all healthcare settings, including skilled nursing facilities, regardless of vaccination status. Routine testing of staff and residents is also required at skilled nursing facilities, and there are stringent infection control directives, according to the department.

On Tuesday, Public Health confirmed 2,293 new cases of COVID-19. To date, the department has identified 1,307,970 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County and a total of 24,704 deaths.

There are 1,138 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 22% of these people are in the ICU. This is an increase of 313 daily hospitalizations since last Tuesday.

“Residents at skilled nursing facilities are often medically fragile and throughout this pandemic have been at great risk for serious illness and death from COVID-19. Thankfully, because of their high COVID-19 vaccination rates and infection control measures at facilities, we are not seeing dramatic increases in COVID-19 cases among staff and residents at skilled nursing facilities, nor have we seen significant increases in deaths,” said Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health in a statement. “In order to ensure a continued high level of protection during this surge, staff and residents not yet vaccinated should do so. And we ask everyone who plans to visit someone in a skilled nursing facility to mask up and be fully vaccinated to prevent transmission to very vulnerable residents.”

Anyone 12 and older living or working in L.A. County can get vaccinated against COVID-19. For more information, visit here

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California To Require State, Health Care Workers To Show Proof Of Vaccination Or Testing

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All California state employees, as well as workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings, must show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, Governor Newsom announced Monday.

The new policy for state workers will take effect on Aug. 2 and testing will be phased in over the next few weeks. The new policy for health care workers and congregate facilities is set to take effect on Aug. 9, and health care facilities will have until Aug. 23 to come into full compliance. 

Unvaccinated workers will be subject to at least weekly COVID-19 testing and will be required to wear appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE). This requirement also applies to high-risk congregate settings, including senior residential facilities, homeless shelters and jails. 

“We are now dealing with a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and it’s going to take renewed efforts to protect Californians from the dangerous Delta variant,” said Newsom in a statement. “As the state’s largest employer, we are leading by example and requiring all state and health care workers to show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly, and we are encouraging local governments and businesses to do the same.”

Despite California leading the nation in vaccinations, with more than 44 million doses administered and 75% of the eligible population has received at least one dose, the state is seeing increasing numbers of people who refused to get the vaccine being admitted to the ICU and dying.

“The Delta variant is up to 60% more infectious than the Alpha strain but many times more infectious than the original COVID-19 strain. If you have been waiting to get vaccinated, now is the time,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly in a statement.

As of last week, California’s statewide case rate more than quadrupled from a low in May of 1.9 cases per 100,000 residents a day to at least 9.5 cases per 100,000.

The vast majority of new cases are among the unvaccinated, with 600% higher case rates among the unvaccinated than for those who are vaccinated, according to the state. 

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Los Angeles County COVID-19 Cases Increase 80% In One Week

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Los Angeles County continues to see a rapid rise in COVID-19 transmission countywide with cases doubling over the last 10 days as the Delta variant spreads.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed 2,767 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday an 80% increase over last week, according to the department. 

On Friday, 3,058 additional cases were reported, marking the third day in a row with more than 2,500 cases reported in a day, according to Public Health.

The County’s daily average case rate, with a 7-day lag, is now 12.9 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from last week’s rate of 7.1 cases per 100,000.

There are 645 people with COVID-19 currently hospitalized and 22% of these people are in the ICU. Last week, there were 406 people hospitalized with COVID-19 illness.

“Public Health has detailed the rise of the Delta variant among strains sequenced in the Los Angeles County area for weeks,” department officials said. “While emerging data affirms that fully vaccinated people are well protected from severe infections with Delta variants, people with only one vaccine are not as well-protected, and there is increasing evidence that a small number of fully vaccinated individuals can become infected and may be able to infect others.”

From July 11 to July 17, the number of sequenced Delta variants was 201, 84% of all sequences collected that week. 

This is consistent with the rise of Delta nationwide: earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that Delta strains accounted for 83% of circulating COVID-19. Given that about 4 million residents in L.A. County are not yet vaccinated, the risk of increased spread of this variant within L.A. County remains high, according to Public Health.

As of July 18, more than 10,845,531 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to people across Los Angeles County. Of these, 6,013,569 were first doses and 4,831,962 were second doses.

88% of L.A. County seniors 65 and over, 70% of residents 16 and over, and 69% of residents 12 and over have received one dose of a vaccine including 39% of L.A. County teens between the ages of 12 and 17. 

Of the nearly 10.3 million L.A. County residents, including those who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, 52% are fully vaccinated and 59% have received at least one dose.

“As more people have gotten vaccinated, the proportion of total cases that are among those vaccinated has also increased,” public health officials said. “This is to be expected because as more people are vaccinated, the number of fully vaccinated people becoming infected will increase.”

 In June, fully vaccinated people represented 20% of all cases diagnosed among L.A. County residents, while unvaccinated and partially vaccinated people accounted for 80% of cases.

Public Health estimates if the 52% of County residents that are fully vaccinated were not vaccinated, the number of new cases would perhaps be double because everyone would instead have the same risk of infection as unvaccinated people do. While County numbers have been going up, they would be much higher if there weren’t as many people fully vaccinated.

In Los Angeles County, everyone 2 years of age and older must wear a mask in all indoor public places, regardless of their vaccination status. 

“While the County does not require masking at private gatherings where unvaccinated or immunocompromised people are present, universal masking in these scenarios, particularly indoors, is the best way to protect everyone,” department officials said.

To find a vaccination site in Los Angeles County, visit here.

Note: This story has been updated with new case data from the Department of Public Health.

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