Bay Area health officers support full in-person learning in fall

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Contra Costa coronavirus cases 'not rising as fast as the worst case scenario'
Dr. Chris Farnitano, health officer for Contra Costa County, speaks at a news conference on March 23, 2020.

All schools should open for full, in-person instruction in the fall of 2021, Bay Area health officers said Tuesday.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that the risk of COVID-19 spread among children who wear masks is very low, even with reduced spacing between desks, according to health officers representing the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma, and the city of Berkeley.

Health officers also said the lack of in-person learning has had detrimental impacts on children and their families.

“In the Bay Area and throughout the state, many factors indicate that the consequences and risk of classroom transmission were low to begin with and have decreased even further as community case rates have fallen,” health officers said. “There are high rates of vaccination among people at increased risk of severe disease – including older adults and those with high risk of medical complications. Children 12 and older are now eligible for vaccinations, and there is low overall community prevalence.”

Meanwhile, the lack of in-person learning has “disrupted education, weakened the social supports provided by school communities, negatively impacted mental health, and prevented participation in the rituals and shared milestones that tie our communities together,” according to the health officers’ statement.

Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano added that it’s time to move past remote learning models and “back to the full range of learning and support that our educational communities provide.”

Less than 10 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. have been among kids ages 5-17 years, and those within that age group are less likely to develop severe illness or die from infection, according to the CDC. Through June 2, 309 of the over 583,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among persons ages 0–17, CDC data shows.

Photo courtesy of San Mateo County Health