Los Angeles County TK-12 schools saw an increase in COVID-19 transmission as students returned from winter break.
During a Jan. 26 COVID-19 update, L.A. Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer said the data took into account clusters of three or more cases in classroom or office settings. Schools, however, are not required to report individual cases of COVID-19 outside of clusters.
“In recent weeks, as schools return from winter break, we’ve begun to see increases in clusters of cases and outbreaks in schools, which was not unexpected, even if community transmission was declining,” Ferrer said. “This is because staff and students spend hours indoors and an airborne virus can easily circulate.”
County schools saw a surge after Thanksgiving break and were starting to see a downtrend going into the winter break, but as students returned, the numbers have seen an uptick each week.
“There’s been about 119 clusters reported, involving 725 students and staff,” Ferrer said. “We do anticipate there may be further increases this month before cases should decline.”
The most recorded COVID-19 outbreaks since the start of October have come from elementary schools, with 105 total outbreaks, followed by middle schools with a distant 26. High schools have seen the fewest number of outbreaks with 21.
Despite the increase in schools, L.A. County has seen a decrease in COVID-19 cases and is currently considered a low risk for transmission. The same low risk has been declared for both the flu and RSV, although Ferrer noted it is possible to see a resurgence in the flu come spring.
Although masking is mostly optional in L.A. County, Ferrer said it is one of the most effective methods at preventing transmission for all three viruses, along with frequent handwashing and updated vaccinations.
Ferrer noted a second silver lining in the data, as there has not been signs of a new dominant strain of COVID-19. Past winter surges have been followed with new strain circulating throughout the county and country, but the current BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, remaining the dominant strains, with the most current booster shown to fight off serious disease caused by the strains.
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