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New COVID cases drop dramatically at CUSD

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

The number of new student COVID cases throughout Claremont Unified School District slowed dramatically this week, indicating the Omicron surge is finally waning among its 6,600 students.

There were just 13 new COVID cases reported this week, representing a remarkable drop-off from the previous few weeks’ totals.

Last week saw 48 new cases, which brought the year-to-date district total to a remarkable 1,473. This week’s 13 new cases bumped it to 1,486.

A little perspective on this week’s extraordinary numbers: after exploding by 180% over the first two weeks following winter break, new cases increased by 67, or 5.2%, the week of January 24, slowed to 4.9% on January 31, again with 67 new infections, and fell to 48 and 3.4% last week.

This week’s COVID numbers rose by just 0.9%.

Ward said the district’s “fill rate” for substitute teachers was at 90% last week, a dramatic increase from about 50% in the chaotic weeks following winter break, when new cases were rising by as much as 180% week-to-week.

“That really indicates that our staff absences continue to fall,” he added.

Another indicator of the level of alarm in the community — the rate of PCR testing at CUSD’s four-a-week afterschool clinics — is also dropping. There were long lines and hour-long waits in early January, with each site administering up to 425 tests per session. Last week there were about 40 tests given per day at those same sites, with no waiting.

The availability of home testing kits has also served to reduce reliance on PCR testing, Ward said.

State health agencies, with which the district also follows suit in many instances, have made clear the indoor mask mandate for students will remain in place well into the spring, Ward said.

“And that seems commensurate with the type of decisions that have been made thus far,” he added. “But if we can start having more availability for kids to get outside and take those breaks, that will certainly help.”

It’s difficult to imagine a time where students and faculty will not be wearing masks indoors.

“Yeah. I mean, that’s the $10,000 question, right: when will we reach that threshold?” Ward said. “I don’t know if anybody has a real clear-cut picture of what that plan may look like. But, we’ll let the scientists make that decision and let L.A. County D.P.H. make that determination and we’ll follow the rules, like we have.”

Ward said he and his colleagues have been getting back to a less COVID-intensive workload, another sign that perhaps the Omicron segment of the crisis is in decline.

“Certainly that’s an indicator, and COVID still takes up good chunks of the day and chunks of the weeks, but it definitely feels a little bit more normal, if I can say that, this past week or so certainly than it did coming back from winter break in January.”

Reported COVID numbers for CUSD were as of 6 a.m. February 16. Case numbers can fluctuate throughout the week. For the latest, go to https://claremont-ca.schoolloop.com/covid and click “COVID 19 Dashboard.”

 

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