With schools reopening across the region, Los Angeles County health officials Tuesday urged parents and students alike to take precautions against the spread of COVID-19, insisting that children are not immune to the virus.
According to the county Department of Public Health, 9% of all COVID cases in the county over the past month were in children aged 5 to 17. While officials conceded that children often experience only mild illness from the virus, the long-term effects of infection remain unknown, and there have been nearly 1,900 children hospitalized from the virus during the pandemic.
In a statement, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said students returning to campuses should take steps to “limit spread” of the virus.
“This includes making sure that those who are sick do not come to school, those who are infected follow isolation protocols, and those with symptoms and/or exposures get tested,” she said. “Everyone is urged to wear a mask when indoors and to continue following good hand hygiene. Students and staff should take advantage of the ample supply of vaccines to be up-to-date on their vaccinations.
“Following these sensible steps helps reduce illness and absences, lowering the risk of disruption at schools. We can also each do our part to support safety at schools by taking practical steps to reduce community transmission since, as we know too well, high case rates in the community create additional risk for spread at schools and worksites.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District will resume classes on Monday, but with loosened COVID protocols. Most notably, the district will no longer be requiring weekly surveillance testing of all students and staff. Instead, testing will only be required for those experiencing symptoms or people who have been exposed to the virus.
Masking also remains only strongly recommended indoors on LAUSD campuses. The district’s vaccine mandate for students is on hold until at least next year.
The county reported another 2,335 COVID cases on Tuesday, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,338,352. Another 13 virus-related fatalities were reported, raising the overall death toll to 32,869.
The seven-day daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 12.7% as of Tuesday.
According to state figures, there were 1,151 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, down from the 1,162 that were reported on Saturday. Of those patients, 121 were being treated in intensive care, down slightly from 123 on Saturday.
County officials have said that roughly 43% of the COVID-positive patients admitted to hospitals were actually admitted for virus-related illness, while the others were admitted for other reasons, with some only learning they were infected when they were tested at the hospital.