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Cases rise, but quarantines down at CUSD

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

COVID-19 cases at Claremont High School spiked again this week, rising from 43 to 55 as the outbreak there continued, but student quarantines across all 10 Claremont Unified School District campuses — which have fluctuated from dozens to hundreds since school began September 1— are at zero.

“There are a few [COVID] positive students, but I see them not connected to any school exposure,” said CUSD Assistant Superintendent, Human Services, Kevin Ward. “So, it looks like we’re all here today, which is good!”

There were 153 students quarantined across the district last weekend: 82 at CHS, 27 at Mountain View Elementary, and 44 at Vista de Valle.

This week’s hopeful development regarding quarantines was welcome news.

“We’ve seen in the time that you and I have been talking the kind of ebbs and flows from week-to-week,” Ward said. “So this might be an ebb, or it might be a trend; I’m kind of hoping for the latter.”

The outbreak at CHS, established last week by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, will likely be lifted at the end of this week, Ward said, but only if the school does not report any additional positive cases connected to an in-school exposure during that period.

Districtwide, new case numbers as of noon Thursday were as follows: Condit held steady at 18 on the year, but still has the most infections by far among the CUSD’s seven elementary schools; Oakmont held steady at four; Sumner Danbury had one new case, resulting in 10 since school began September 1; Chaparral added one, for three total; El Roble Intermediate added one as well, for seven on the year; And Sycamore Elementary and San Antonio High continued their streaks of remaining COVID free.

Please note that new cases can increase and quarantine numbers can fluctuate up and down throughout the week. The district’s COVID dashboard, at https://claremont-ca.schoolloop.com/covid, is updated as new information comes in. Please check there for the latest figures.

The county health department inspects all campuses that have outbreaks, and sent two inspectors to CHS after lunchtime October 13. Ward said the inspection didn’t did not result in any findings, which would have indicated something was amiss with respect the district’s COVID mitigation protocols. The inspectors did have some recommendations though.

“They did air movement tests within a couple of places,” Ward said. “They have this equipment that puts out a puff of smoke into the air, and they look at how the air tracks,” said Ward. In both gymnasiums at CHS, LACDPH recommended moving fans to the doorways of both gymnasiums for more air circulation on the courts. They wanted the air to move a little bit quicker through there.”

The county also recommended CHS implement similar measures in its fitness lab and weight rooms, Ward said. The inspectors were pleased to see the school’s baseball squad was spaced properly in the dugout, Ward said, and recommended it continue the practice.

Additionally, examiners advised moving portable air filtration units from the corners to the middle of some classrooms, as well as more open windows and doors. Other recommendations included continuing to make students aware to keep their masks on at all times indoors, and outside if possible, and to wash their hands frequently and physically distance from one another.

The school was commended for it’s well dispersed eating areas.

“There were a number of additional tables and standing areas that were set all over campus to allow kids to spread out,” Ward said. “So they utilize that, and as you know they kind of sit under the trees and out on the grass. So, L.A. County D.P.H. inspectors said that was some of the best spacing that they’ve seen for high school students as they eat lunch. They really liked that.”

The district also received commendation for its contact tracing protocols and procedures.

“Our health services staff, our nurses, are doing an exceptional job,” Ward said. “And they praise us, they say they don’t see that at a number of school districts they go to, so they’re always very complimentary of Alicia King, our health services coordinator, and her staff.”

So here we are eight weeks into the 2021-22 school year, and Sycamore Elementary, just 1.6 miles south of Condit, in the same town, has zero cases to Condit’s 18. Why is that?

“I have no idea,” Ward said. “There’s no real difference in operations; the procedures and protocols that we put in place are being followed with fidelity at each school. We’ve done a lot to make sure that even those schools that have slightly different procedures for recess and lunch, that the setups   are all pretty much the same, the spacing of students is all pretty much the same. We’ve implemented the recommendations and requirements throughout the school district. So, I don’t know what to attribute that to.”

The district does not currently have the ability to explore a possible link between the vaccinations of families and the disparity, Ward explained, adding, “We don’t really have any data to make that determination.”

In other pandemic-related CUSD news, October 15 was the deadline for district employees to comply with the state heath order mandate that all public school staff must either be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing in order to remain in their jobs.

Ward said 91% (349) of its 382 certificated staff, comprised of teachers, counselors, school nurses, psychologists, speech language pathologists, principals and most district administrators,  are now vaccinated. He also reported 83% (289 of 346) of its classified employees —  paraeducators, custodial, maintenance/grounds/IT, nutrition services, office/clerical/support staff (both in the district office and at school sites), as well as health and library — had been inoculated.

All but a handful of the 90 unvaccinated staff will abide by the state edict and submit to weekly testing, Ward said.

Three staff members requested religious exemptions to vaccination and testing, and each has been offered an unpaid one-year leave of absence, after which time they can either submit to the state requirements or resign.

Ward welcomed the relatively mellow week at CUSD, which came on the heels of last week’s COVID outbreak at CHS and the opening of an investigation into reports of inflammatory statements made to students by 17-year Claremont High physical education teacher Rosalinda Castillo.

“It’s like you said, pretty quiet; let’s knock on wood. Maybe that will hold for a couple of weeks. We’ll see.”

Again, for the latest CUSD COVID case numbers and information, go to https://claremont-ca.schoolloop.com/covid.

The district continues to offer multiple free testing clinics on Mondays from 2 to 4 p.m. at El Roble, and 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. at Sycamore; Tuesdays from 2:45 to 3:45 p.m. at Vista del Valle; Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. at Condit; and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at Claremont High.

As always, anyone over the age of 12 can make an appointment to receive a free dose of the readily available, FDA and CDC approved COVID vaccine at https://myturn.ca.gov.

 

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