Outbreaks in COVID-19 cases, where three or more non-related households contract the virus infection from school, have been prevented in San Francisco since classes started on August 16, the city's Department of Public Health has confirmed.
Three weeks since school resumption, only 227 COVID-19 cases have been reported among 62,000 students and almost 10,000 public school staff. The health department said that the "vast majority" of these infections did not occur in the school setting.
COVID-19 cases among the children in San Francisco remain very low throughout the pandemic despite the Delta COVID-19 variant. Only 13 children have been hospitalized since the pandemic started in March 2020 and no kids are currently admitted nor requiring emergency COVID-19 medical care.
Defying National Trends
Some 5,543 among 118,000 children have had the infection in the last 18 months, but there are no pediatric deaths recorded for COVID-19 cases. San Francisco is defying national trends amid the skyrocketing COVID-19 cases among children in other states. San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Vince Matthews said that the city's Department of Public Health data affirms that the health and safety measures adopted in the local schools have been working.
School staff members in San Francisco must be fully vaccinated or tested for the virus every week if they won't get the jab for religious or medical reasons. Universal masking is also expected indoors while school officials have improved classroom ventilation and other safety measures like isolating close contacts of virus cases.
At the end of August, the San Francisco Unified School District asked all public school employees to submit their vaccination status, and 96 percent have complied with the mandate. Teachers who do not adhere to the vaccination or testing requirements are no longer eligible to work in schools.
"It's extremely encouraging to see such high rates of vaccination among our staff," Matthews said in a statement to the press. He believes that this has been vital to keeping the students and their families safe from the virus.
Ninety percent of San Francisco children, between 12 to 17 years old, are also fully vaccinated, and 86 percent of all residents in the city, between 12 years old and older, are fully vaccinated as well. Fearing that the worst is yet to come, some school board members remain unsupportive of the mitigating measures despite the public health data.
Teachers Become Contact Tracers
Meanwhile, some school teachers said they could no longer do their jobs because they focused on contact tracing COVID-19 cases. Sometimes, it takes at least six hours to map out a trace for one case alone, and most of the time, the contract tracers have to work on the weekends.
Michael Essien, the president of the United Administrators of San Francisco, has asked the city to take over contact tracing so that they can go back to their actual jobs. Contract tracing entails interviewing students and teachers of individuals who have tested positive for the virus.
But the city's Department of Health said that they have been doing contact tracing as well while working with various Schools Response Team. They had to hire more staff to cover all the bases.
Essien said this seems like the "new normal" for San Francisco schools, which he believes cannot be sustained and shouldn't continue.
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