As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on and the Delta variant becomes a more severe threat, parents and students are bracing for another school year with lots of concerns. Safety for campus communities is the top concern for LA County officials as K-12 schools reopen on Aug. 16. In a panel briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services to address these concerns top LA County officials discussed the safety measures in place to protect students, their families, teachers, administrators from COVID-19 – including masking, vaccine availability, social distancing, testing, mental health counseling, and more.
Supervisor Hilda L. Solis, Chair of LA County Board of Supervisors, 1st District Supervisor gave opening remarks on video expressing her appreciation to experts and journalists for taking the necessary information to their communities. The Supervisor reiterated the determination of the city to ensure a safe return to schools. The vaccines she said were very effective and safe for those ages 12 and above. Lamenting That not everyone has taken their vaccine and work needs to be done to get everyone vaccinated. Mobile clinics continue to be mobilized and food will be provided to ensure that students with challenges get taken care of. More information can be found at vaccinatelacounty.com
Superintendent Dr. Debra Duardo, LA County Office of Education, acknowledged the excitement that going back to school comes with and lamented the new normal with covid at the center of concerns. This is going to be different especially for those who haven’t been back. Virtual environments have brought on mental challenges and the city will continue to track data daily to provide guidance on what to do when schools reopen. Reopening plans are being provided as well as summer learning and acceleration to ensure all students get the help they need.
Dr. Nava Yeganeh, Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist and Medical Epidemiologist, LA County Department of Public Health, presented a slide showing the challenges faced by LA County. The data was not encouraging with high levels of transmission. There is still a need for more vaccinations as those vaccinated are protected from severe illness or death. Masking is crucial in preventing transmission and testing and contact tracing will ensure that the spread is contained.
Hospitalization she said has increased amongst all races with blacks topping at 300%. Almost 10million doses have been administered, among individuals 65 or older 90% have received at least one dose. School-age account for 50% who have received at least 1dose of the vaccine. Though in many age groups there is an uptick in vaccinations, ethnic disparities persist. This is important to note to ensure safety measures as the school year begins.
Kids 5-11 still await FDA approval for the EUA( EMERGENCY USE AUTHORIZATION) or BLA (BIOLOGICAL LICENSE APPLICATION). Once the decision is made and rendered the information will be sent to the CDC and immunization practices made up of pediatricians and experts who will make recommendations for use. Hopefully by early fall for EUA.
For adolescents, they are also at risk especially for those unvaccinated. 12-17years of age may suffer from more severe symptoms which could also impact households. Vaccines are again efficacious in preventing severe illness and death. They are safe to use and we need higher rates to ensure that schools open safely. Children are eager to go to school and so it is important to make sure that they are vaccinated. Please visit vaccinatelacounty.com to find out where to get vaccines. Note that some schools are hosting clinics for vaccinations.
Dr. Jasmine Eugenio, Pediatric Senior Physician, LA County Department of Health Services spoke about the importance of vaccinations for school-aged children. In California as schools start masks will be required while we await the vaccines for young kids. As a mom and pediatrician, she expressed awareness of what this time means especially with the delta variant. We must prepare children for this as some will not be able to go outside and must wear masks. There will be less excitement as transmission makes it different.