Santa Cruz schools assume all students have been exposed to COVID


SANTA CRUZ – Last week, Santa Cruz High School issued a “Significant Exposure” notice to all Cardinals parents, but the announcement doesn’t mean there are major COVID-19 outbreaks. happening in schools in Santa Cruz.

Rather, “Significant exposure” is just another step in the school’s process to minimize the spread of the virus, according to District Communications Director Sam Rolens. When a school has a severe exposure event, it activates a new protocol that allows the school to better manage who has contracted the virus.

With Omicron’s growing presence in the community, contact tracing in schools becomes less and less feasible, said Deputy County Health Officer Dr. Cal Gordon. In fact, when impression share is high, contact tracing doesn’t bring any value, he added.

As a result, schools were chosen to use a substantial exposure model and notify the entire community of possible exposure rather than having to issue a new exposure notice to parents each time a new case is reported. This allows the school to focus more time and energy on testing rather than contact tracing, Gordon said.

“The reality is that the chances of being exposed at school are much higher. If the much higher case rates in schools were just a reflection of what was happening in the community, then parents could get exposure notifications left and right,” said Gordon. “If you are concerned when you notice that your child has been exposed, it can be difficult to understand what that really means.”

When a school enters a severe exposure event, it will continue to operate on the assumption that all students have been exposed to the virus, according to a letter sent to parents by SCHS. From there, the school entered a modified quarantine.

“We only know of cases that we can test. When that number is so high, we have to assume that there is a large number of cases of community transmission coming to campus that we don’t test because they are asymptomatic and they show no signs. known exposures,” says Roles. “We would be fools to assume that the only cases are the ones we know of.”

The revised quarantine requires all unvaccinated students to undergo a COVID-19 test twice a week. Students who do not take the exam must isolate at home and cannot participate in extracurricular activities.

Vaccinated students, and those who have tested positive in the past 90 days, are exempt from the test requirement but are still encouraged to participate.

All students who test positive for COVID-19 must isolate at home for five days. At the end of those five days, they can take the antigen test through the lab and return to the school if the results are negative.

If a student is ill, the student is to be isolated at home for five days after the onset of symptoms. They may also have an antigen test after those five days, but must also see improvement in their symptoms and be fever-free for at least 24 hours before returning to school.

Testing through school is done through Inspire. However, the district still has parents who have not registered with the company for testing processing and urges them to do so.

Parents can register themselves and their students through the district’s website at

“We really encourage all families to sign up for the trial,” says Rolens. “That would be the easiest and best way that kids can stay in class and not be interrupted in the event that this protocol works.”

Only a handful of facilities had had significant exposure as of Thursday. However, eight out of 10 Santa Cruz City Schools campuses are expected to transition to the new guidelines this week, according to Rolens.

Rolens notes that there is no specific threshold for schools to pass a significant exposure event. Instead, such assignment is at the discretion of the school district.

That decision was made based on the total number of contacts at a campus and the number of classes that have been quarantined, he added. The manner in which the virus has spread through the community recently also plays a role, making it difficult for the district to determine a specific threshold index.

“Indeed, we have reached the point of extreme caution, we are treating everyone on campus as exposed so we can have visibility across the spectrum into footprint of COVID throughout the school,” said Rolens. “We believe it is an extremely valuable way to protect our classrooms and students in Omicron.”

Each school’s significant exposure will be reassessed at the end of each week. According to the letter, Santa Cruz High School is expected to continue hosting a substantial exposure event for a period of two to four weeks.

Impact on the community

While a significant exposure event may sound scary, Deputy County Health Officer Dr. David Ghilarducci recommends that parents and other members of the public not panic, especially those have been vaccinated.

“Nothing surprising. We predict that we’ll get to the point where schools will have to say, “Listen, there’s COVID here and you’ve likely been exposed and COVID is everywhere at this point,” Ghilarducci said. “I don’t think it represents a supercluster of events. I think it’s just a reflection of the general state of affairs in our community. ”

Similar to schools, Santa Cruz County saw a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases just before the new year. However, local health experts predict this increase will be short-lived and peak in the next few weeks before cases begin to decline rapidly again.

Gordon notes that Omicron is three times more infectious than the Delta variant. As a result, the disease will spread faster in the community.

Dr. Ghilarducci likens the current increase in cases to a grass fire. The flame will burn the grass quickly, but once the grass is burned out, the flame will go out.

“Ultimately the virus will run out of human fuel and there won’t be any more vulnerable people,” Ghilarducci said. “The fewer the number of unvaccinated people, the less weeds.” Santa Cruz schools assume all students have been exposed to COVID

Huynh Nguyen

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