Biweekly Briefing Articles

Watching — and Waiting — As Students Return to Campus

The start of the new school year typically brings with it a certain amount of trepidation for students, parents, and teachers alike. This year, that trepidation is only enhanced by COVID-19.

As cases and hospitalizations climb throughout the state, and students file back onto campus, there is great concern that in-classroom learning could facilitate the ongoing spread of COVID-19. Already, one school in San Diego County — Cathedral Catholic High School — delayed its first day of school after a vaccinated employee tested positive for COVID-19.

At this time, it’s unknown whether the return to the classroom has factored into the state’s projections but it’s clear that any increase in cases will put further strain on hospitals that are already feeling the pressure.

No doubt, vaccinating as many people as possible is key to safely reopening schools — and keeping them open. Last week, California became the first state in the nation to require teachers and other school staff to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or to be tested weekly.

Intensifying the urgency to get more people vaccinated is the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, which has increased the number of hospitalizations of children under 18. As of Aug. 17, 10 children were hospitalized for COVID-19 in San Diego County.

While few would argue the need for students to return to in-person learning — wearing masks and taking other precautions — the increased transmissibility of the Deltra variant remains cause for concern, though we do not yet know whether kids are more susceptible to Delta than previous strains. To address a potential influx of young patients locally, the County of San Diego Healthcare Disaster Coalition Advisory Committee has formed a Pediatric Surge Workgroup to prepare as schools begin school re-opening.

It’s still not clear when kids ages 12 and under could be eligible for the vaccine. While it was once hoped that it could be ready by Labor Day or early fall, it’s likely to be even a little longer. Still, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it may be approved for younger kids. In the meantime, vaccinating more adults will benefit all, including children.