A mere five cases of in-school COVID transmission have been recorded since San Francisco schools reopened last month, and as of now, SF schools are avoiding the Delta variant nightmare being seen elsewhere across the country.
President Biden just went on national TV to announce new vaccination mandates for all employers with more than 100 employees. This comes after a brutal August of COVID comeback, and the nation is back to seeing about 1,500 Americans every day from the virus. The return to school has largely been disastrous on this front; CNN reports that child COVID-19 hospitalizations hit an all-time high Wednesday, and in Florida (of course), NPR points out that 13 school employees have died in Miami-Dade County since the first day of school.
No such remorse here in San Francisco, though, as the Chronicle reports that no outbreaks have occurred in SF schools, now that we’re nearly a month into the school year. In fact, cases among kids have gone down, which is consistent with the decline in cases we’re seeing broadly across the city.
SFDPH Press release today: No local pediatric surge, schools remain safe. Other bay area health departments should follow suit, spreading this reassuring news to concerned families. pic.twitter.com/BoiLamTAyP— Dr. Jeanne Noble (@JeanneNoble18) September 9, 2021
“To date, our data demonstrate that cases among San Francisco residents under age 18 have remained low and stable throughout the pandemic and that schools are low-risk settings when the proper safety protocols are followed,” the Department of Public Health says in an analysis released Thursday morning. “Since March 2020, there have been a total of 13 pediatric hospitalizations among San Francisco residents at San Francisco hospitals. There are currently no San Francisco children who are hospitalized for COVID-19.”
This new data from @SFDPH shows us what we knew all along—that kids can safely return to in-person learning, that our data-centered approach is working, and that vaccines are our best defense against COVID. pic.twitter.com/IzLCMQA1Uq— London Breed (@LondonBreed) September 9, 2021
Mayor Breed is taking to Twitter to crow about this, unsurprising, given her damn-the-torpedoes, sue-the-school-board zeal for reopening schools as quickly as possible.
But we certainly did not know “all along” that this would go smoothly, and the notion that “kids can safely return to in-person learning” is Ron DeSantis-level overconfidence that is easily disproven by outbreaks in other districts. The low case counts are likely thanks to the entire city’s exceptional vaccination rate, and Breed does deserve credit for that.
The above graphic shows that cases have actually gone down in all of the age groups since the first day of school. And with the standard of an “outbreak” being three or more cases contracted at a school, DPH says that “No COVID-19 outbreaks have been verified as having occurred at San Francisco schools (as of September 8).”
9-8-2021 20:30#SFUSD— SFUSD Covid Cases and Data (@SFschoolmonitor) September 9, 2021
Total Positive Cases: 227 (+6 new cases)
Staff Self-Reported: 32 (+1)
Student/Family Self-Reported: 180 (+5)
Color Reported: 15
Color Tests Performed: 6496 (+853 tests)
PK-5: 126 (+2)
PK-8: 26 (+2)
MS: 36 (+1)
HS: 39 (+1)
The situation is not entirely rosy. There’s an (unofficial) Twitter account called SFUSD Covid Cases and Data that uses the DPH’s COVID-19 dashboard to track cases among SFUSD staff and students. And we do have 227 total positive cases. But according to the DPH’s contact tracing data, “The vast majority of these infections are occurring outside of schools.”
Similarly, Marin County recently reported this week that it had logged 71 total cases among schoolkids, but said that the vast majority of these transmission were happening outside of school and in extra-curricular activities like sports.
I’m a “Let’s wait til two weeks after Labor Day before we celebrate anything” kind of guy, but this data is very encouraging. San Francisco has certainly done something right to get these numbers. It helps that we don't have a crazy governor determined to keep masks and mandates out of school. And Jesus, let’s hope that’s still the case after Tuesday’s recall election.
Image: Bahn Mi via Wikimedia Commons