County and SCOE Announce Local Recommendations to Mitigate COVID-19 on Campus
Local recommendations meant to help minimize spread on campus and keep children in the classroom.
The Sonoma County Department of Health Services (SCDHS) and the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) have issued three local recommendations to Sonoma County schools to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 on campus and enable students to have the fewest possible interruptions to in-person learning.
County Health Officer Strongly Recommends Outdoor Masking In Schools
SCDHS and SCOE now “strongly recommend” outdoor masking in most school settings, especially on playgrounds and common areas where students congregate. However, students may take socially distanced mask breaks outside if they maintain at least six feet from others.
This recommendation is made based on the high incidence of COVID-19 in the community and the contagiousness of the Delta variant.
Outdoor masking also minimizes the need for children to stay home from school if they are exposed to a sick student or teacher. If all parties are masked when an exposure takes place, then the exposed student may remain in school under a “modified quarantine” as long as they do not show symptoms and agree to twice-weekly COVID-19 testing.
County Health Officer Strongly Recommends Surveillance Testing
SCDHS strongly recommends that all schools conduct weekly surveillance testing for students. Unvaccinated school workers are required to be tested weekly by virtue of a previous state health order. Testing is optional for vaccinated staff but advised. Surveillance testing refers to the regular testing of students/staff whether or not they have symptoms. This type of testing helps catch cases early and can mitigate the spread on campus.
While this is the best standard, it may not always be feasible given a school’s resources. Where this is not feasible, schools are asked to test as frequently as possible.
SCDHS also strongly recommends continued surveillance testing of athletes, coaches, and referees with weekly PCR or twice-weekly antigen tests. For high-contact sports, they highly recommend proof of vaccine or negative test within 72 hours of participation in a game.
Schools can use federal and state COVID-19 funds to provide this surveillance testing. They may use any FDA-approved COVID-19 test (PCR or antigen). School districts may use a private COVID-19 testing company or use the State of California’s testing program for schools. Learn more here.
Overnight Field Trips
Currently, schools around California are waiting for California Department of Public Health guidance that will govern field trips, overnight field trips, sports, and extracurriculars. In the meantime, overnight field trips are considered a high-risk activity and highly discouraged by the County Health Officer.
About the Recommendations
While schools are not required to follow these recommendations, they indicate what the county health department deems to be best practice given the current COVID-19 case rates and statistics in Sonoma County.
As recommendations, they are designed to allow school districts flexibility in meeting the needs of their school communities.
Local health recommendations for schools are based on Sonoma County COVID-19 case rates, rates of transmission, and the most up-to-date scientific knowledge. They are meant to balance the need to keep children in the classroom, where they are best able to learn and engage with their classmates, and the need to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus.
Recommendations may change throughout the year based on the current state of the virus within the community and developments in science, best practices, and standards.