After two weeks, CUSD sees big drop in COVID-19 cases

by Mick Rhodes |
Though officials are hesitant to celebrate, there’s no denying the good news out of Claremont Unified School District.

After two weeks of rising positive diagnoses and quarantines, CUSD reported just one new positive COVID case over the past week, recorded Wednesday afternoon at Claremont High School. And, the number of quarantined pupils districtwide fell dramatically, from 343 last week to just 11.

“All the other [343] students that you reported on in your article last week are all back to school, both any quarantined and previously positive students, as well as the outbreak at period at Condit is over,” said Claremont Unified School District Assistant Superintendent, Human Services, Kevin Ward.

Just last week, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health deemed Condit Elementary’s 15 positive COVID cases an “outbreak.” The same body announced this week the school no longer qualified for that unfortunate designation.

For a brief shining moment early this week the district had no students or faculty quarantined. The new case identified Wednesday at CHS put an end to that; contact tracing began immediately, and 10 students who had been exposed were quarantined and their one COVID-positive classmate was isolated.

Durations and protocols are different for isolation and quarantine, Mr. Ward said.

“Normally, depending on the students schedule and what they do for lunch, it can be up to 75 students involved in the contact tracing for one infected student at CHS,” Mr. Ward told the COURIER.

Mr. Ward said he did not have the exact number of CHS students who were exposed but fully vaccinated, and were therefore allowed to continue to come to school as long as they remain symptom-free.

So, with just one new case at CHS and 11 students quarantined, the scales are tipping in the right direction for the first time since school began September 1.

Still though, the balloon drop remains on hold.

“I don’t think we can characterize it as a win or a loss,” Mr. Ward said. “I think what you’re seeing is the way positive cases show up in our community. We’ve been in school a couple of weeks, and we’ve had positive cases as a result, and students who came into close contact were quarantined. And you can look at the fact that we just came off summer break. Many people were traveling over summer break and there were back to school parties and these things.”

Overall, Condit’s confirmed COVID case numbers remained at 15 as of September 22, unchanged since last week, as were Chaparral’s (two), Mountain View’s (two), Oakmont’s (one) and Vista del Valle’s (one). Sumner Danbury added one case, bringing its total to six. El Roble Intermediate also held steady at two cases, Claremont High added one, bringing it to 11, and both Sycamore Elementary and San Antonio High remained COVID free.

The district continues to be vigilant about quickly isolating and sending students home who show up to school with any symptoms whatsoever that could possibly be COVID related, such as a cough, a fever or a runny nose, Mr. Ward said.

“That is really what our operations look like now,” Mr. Ward said. “The health services staff has to really look at all symptomatic students and really determine if they’re able to stay or not. We’re erring on the side of caution and the parents are coming and picking them up and getting them tested. And once we get that negative test result they can come back to school.

“That is how we’re going to do business here for the unforeseeable future,” he quipped.

To be clear, kids sent home from school as symptomatic aren’t “quarantined,” so they do not show up as such in the district’s COVID Dashboard data.

“Quarantine means that you were potentially exposed to an infected person, and isolation means that you tested positive,” he explained. “So they don’t show up in either of those” data sets.

Mr. Ward cautioned folks to avoid complacency, even with the sudden downward turn in new cases and quarantines. He also offered a word of warning.

“I think we’re going to have to look at this in terms of cycles,” he said. “I think yes, we’re in a good cycle right now, and that makes sense, because we’ve been in school for a number of weeks. I think we’re going to see upticks after events. I’m going to predict we’re going to see an uptick after Halloween. I’m going to predict we’re going to see an uptick after winter break. Any time you have groups of people mixing I think there’s the potentiality to see upticks in our numbers.”

It’s natural to attempt to assign credit to some new policy or practice for the good news this week. But that simply is not the case, Mr. Ward said.

“There’s nothing that we’re doing specifically different now that we were not doing on the first day of school.

“Is this going to be something that’s going to show up in schools? Absolutely. It depends a lot on the amount of testing that we do, and it depends a lot on a lot of factors. But I don’t think the results that you’re seeing today can be directly correlated to any changes. I think they’re just the ebb and flow of this disease and how we address it.

“Like I’ve said before, we’re all in this together and we all have a role to play. I think we’re doing a good job of keeping our numbers very low within our district.”


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