In states where Covid cases are on the rise again, schools weigh safety measures, closures

In states where coronavirus cases are on the rise again, local authorities and schools are considering taking additional precautions to limit outbreaks in classrooms, including re-urging people to wear masks and, in some cases to close.

In Los Angeles County, the number of reported cases among youth sports, elementary, middle and high school students “more than quadrupled between March 27 and April 24,” Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday, county public health director, in a statement. conference. Masking requirements in schools were lifted on March 12.

“There are now almost as many cases among students and staff as there were in mid-February,” she said.

Ferrer said his office is encouraging schools to require indoor masking at events where there will be large numbers of students and other people gathered; test and screen students for symptoms before and after events; and to improve ventilation indoors and during transport.

“We encourage schools, families and students to adopt measures that reduce the risk of spread at these school-affiliated events,” she said.

Covid cases spiked in some areas after Easter and spring break. Ferrer said certain school events like dances and field trips have also led to an increase in cases.

“And with many year-end events, we will continue to see further increases unless there is a very big difference in the level of protection individuals are taking,” Ferrer said.

Hospitalizations have also increased in many parts of the country over the past two weeks. However, under current masking guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which take into account available hospital beds and Covid hospitalization rates, most of the country is at medium or low community risk for the coronavirus. .

In Maine, however, eight schools reported outbreaks last week, with 1,000 total cases reported last Thursday, according to the state Department of Education.

One of the schools, Rumford Elementary, was closed for three days this week after 29 students and 16 staff members tested positive, school principal Jill Bartash said in a statement on Wednesday. social networks.

In an earlier statement on Monday, Bartash said the outbreak was “by far the highest number of sick staff and students” the school has had during the pandemic. The school said in response, custodians would clean surfaces, there would be increased vigilance on hand washing, masks would be available for children and test kits would be sent home.

Also in Maine, Brooklin School, which has students in kindergarten through eighth grade, switched to remote learning this week from Tuesday to Friday after about 30% of the school was out on Monday “with symptoms of Covid, or on Covid protocols,” Mark Hurvitt, the acting superintendent of School Union 76, said in a statement.

“I realize this is a real problem for everyone, especially since I thought we were a bit out of the woods with Covid, but apparently not!” he said.

Covid school closures have become a divisive issue since the pandemic upended American education, pushing millions of students into a school year of remote learning. Critics of these closures have said students may suffer mental health issues and learning losses as a result of being out of school.

A study released this month by Harvard’s Center for Education Policy Research, using test data from more than 2 million students across the country, found that achievement growth was particularly weak for students attending colleges. very poor schools in remote districts.

In Connecticut, Enfield Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Drezek apologized as he announced the closure of the Henry Barnard School.

“Please understand that this is the last message I wanted to send to you because I realize the impact this is having on families, as well as students,” Drezek said in a statement. posted on the school’s website.

In-person classes were canceled at Henry Barnard on Thursday and Friday after a “rapid increase in Covid cases” among staff members. Forty of the school’s 75 staff members were not at school due to the coronavirus, Drezek said in the statement.

“Although we have tried to cover the building with staff from other schools, we have reached a point where we simply cannot provide adequate adult supervision to safely open in-person learning,” said he declared.

In New Jersey, local media reported that due to an increase in cases, a masking requirement was reinstated at Montclair High School for 10 days beginning May 4. And in Pennsylvania, Woodland Hills High School has also reinstated a mask requirement through May 13, according to local media.

Last month, nearly 100 San Mateo High School students in California who attended a high school prom tested positive for Covid.

Wearing masks was strongly recommended at the April 9 prom, but many students chose not to wear them, a spokesperson for the San Mateo Union School District told The Associated Press.

This story first appeared on NBCNews.com.

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