On Jan. 5, Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy announced mandatory testing requirements for the return to in-classroom instruction on Jan. 10.
“Regardless of vaccination status, all students and staff will be required to present a negative COVID test before returning to school on Monday,” Bregy wrote in a statement. “We are extending our testing to parents due to the highly contagious nature of the most recent variant and scarcity of tests available.”
This Sunday, Jan. 9, BHUSD will hold a COVID-19 testing day to provide staff, students, and parents with at home tests at no cost. The testing will take place outside Hawthorne Elementary in a drive-thru fashion with two stops. First, guests will drive north on Rexford Drive to Station 1 and present their ID, and a BHUSD administrator will confirm the number of students in each respective family in Aeries and in the car. Afterwards, cars will be directed to turn right on Elevado Avenue to Station 2, where COVID-19 tests will be given to test everyone present in the car who attend BHUSD. After driving away from Hawthorne, groups are asked to park and administer the tests following the instructions in the box. Should someone test positive, they are asked to proceed immediately to the District Office at 255 South Lasky Drive for confirmatory testing.
A negative rapid antigen and negative PCR test are required to return to school after testing positive, and are available at the district office. If everyone in the car tests negative for COVID, the physical test must be brought to school the next day to have it verified by district officials.
Due to a national shortage in tests, the event is limited to BHUSD families. The district is requesting cars contain only members of one family. Tests may not be collected on behalf of other families. All parties must arrive by vehicle in order to be tested. Time slots are designated by last name, beginning at 9 a.m. with last names starting with “A” and ending at 4:30 p.m. with “Wol-Z.”
Those who don’t feel comfortable may test with their own provider, as long as the test results are stamped and dated after 8 a.m. on Jan. 9 and brought to school to enter on Jan. 10.
The move by BHUSD comes after weeks of climbing covid cases, with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) recording nearly 45,000 new coronavirus cases over the New Year’s weekend. With recent daily new cases upwards of 20,000, experts say case numbers are likely to continue to rise for the next few weeks. Amid soaring infections, the number of COVID-19-positive patients in county hospitals has jumped as Public Health confirmed 2,240 hospitalizations on Jan. 5 – the highest it has been since last February, in the midst of another winter COVID surge.
In an effort to curb the relentless spread of the virus, the state Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly announced on Jan. 5 that the state’s indoor mask mandate has been extended through at least Feb. 15. The mandate was set to expire on Jan. 15. Overall, COVID-19 death rates have remained relatively low in the county, despite an increase in cases.
“The days ahead will be extraordinarily challenging for all us as we face extraordinarily high case numbers reflecting widespread transmission of the virus,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said last week. “In order to make sure that people are able to work and attend school, we all need to act responsibly.”
On Jan. 5, Public Health modified its Health Officer Order to include additional safety measures in the workplace. By Jan. 17, employers are required to provide employees who work indoors and in close contact with others with “well-fitting medical grade masks, surgical masks or higher-level respirators, such as N95 or KN95 masks.” The attendance threshold for outdoor mega events has been lowered to 5,000 attendees, and for indoor mega events, 500 attendees. In addition, consuming food and drink will be prohibited at card room gaming tables and masks must always be worn, except when actively eating or drinking in designated areas.
“As students return to the classroom, we all need to follow the public health safety measures in place to ensure our schools can open safely after the winter break,” Ferrer said in a statement on Monday. “Because higher community transmission creates additional challenges at our schools, everyone needs to
do their part to slow the spread of the virus.” “Most importantly, given that vaccinations and boosters provide the most protection against COVID-19, reducing transmission and disruptions in learning at schools, families need to act urgently to get their school-aged children vaccinated,” Ferrer said.
The county issued revised guidelines last week, requiring teachers and staff to wear surgical-grade masks and requiring mask be word outdoors for students when physical distancing isn’t possible.
Los Angeles Unified School District is requiring all students and staff be tested before in-person classes resume Jan. 11. The district’s COVID-19 testing centers reopened this week with extended hours, offering tests by appointment and on a walk-in basis. The state is also helping distribute home tests to all students in California.
In addition to omicron, Southern Californians now have another variant in their midst. Earlier this week, a Brentwood COVID-19 testing site detected the first local case of “flurona,” meaning someone who tested positive for both influenza and coronavirus at the same time. According to the testing company, the patient, a teenager, had just returned from a family vacation in Cabo San Lucas.
In a grim milestone, new COVID-19 cases hit a record high in L.A. County. On Jan. 6, Public Health reported 37,215 new positive cases and a testing positivity rate of 21.9 percent. To date, the agency has identified a total 1,843,922 positive cases of COVID-19 in the county.