We are proud to say that our schools are open to in-person instruction, and they all opened at their usual start time this school year, all except for Southern Trinity Joint Unified School District who had a delayed start due to the August Complex fire.
Safety is a priority for Trinity County districts. Our schools have been following the CDPH Safety Guidelines set out in July 2020, and due to their efforts to enforce those safety plans (masking, social distancing, handwashing, etc.) as well as likely due to the fact that we’ve had fewer cases in our community than in more populated areas, we’ve had no outbreaks in our schools. An outbreak, which would require a school to close to in-person instruction, is defined as “three cases in a school over a 14-day period.”
The only cases we’ve had in our schools have not originated inside the schools themselves, but were due to a close contact with someone in the community who contracted the COVID-19 virus. Some of the schools in our county have had to go to distance-learning for short periods of time for one specific reason: a lack of staff. This has occurred when a staff member or members were required to quarantine due to an exposure, and yet there is an ongoing shortage of substitute teachers to call in. There were also three districts who chose to close to in-person instruction for a short period of time out of an abundance of caution when cases were rising in the population of their respective communities.
Single classrooms or “cohorts” have also gone to distance-learning temporarily because of an exposure to the virus within that group. Our districts have done an exceptional job of keeping groups of students together throughout the day so that if there is an exposure in one classroom, it doesn’t affect other classrooms. This is called “cohorting” or maintaining “stable groups” and has been an effective way to slow any potential spread. Several of our districts, especially, need to be commended because in order to keep cohorts small and socially distanced, it has meant that their administrator, who may also be superintendent and principal, is now also teaching.
A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that for students, going to school was not directly associated with having a positive COVID-19 test, but social gatherings were — including weddings, parties and playdates. This likely reflects the more controlled school environment which helps to keep kids healthy.
You may be hearing about the state’s plans for “reopening” schools. That is a misnomer. No school has actually been “closed” in the state this school year. Rather, some students in the state are not learning in-person and instead are engaged in virtual learning. The larger populations in the state have had bigger challenges trying to reopen to in-person instruction and many are still not able to do so. You can now see which schools are open to in-person instruction, those who are doing “hybrid” learning (are taking turns in person at school to keep groupings small) or are distance-learning only at the following website: https://schools.covid19.ca.gov. All schools report in each week, so this website will reflect the latest status of each elementary, middle, high school and charter school.
Why are so few children getting COVID-19?
You might be interested to know that in recent studies evidence suggests that children actually have lower rates of COVID-19 infection than adults and tend to have a less severe reaction if they do get the virus. The reason? Children produce fewer “ACE-2 receptors” and these receptors are the doorway that the virus uses to enter into human cells.
A study from May 2020 shows that elementary students produce fewer “ACE-2 receptors” than middle and high school-aged students, who produce fewer receptors than adults. Consequently, children have fewer doorways into the body for the virus, which leads to fewer infections and less severe infections for those who do catch it.
Another reason may be because children’s immune systems are used to fighting off common colds. The common cold is also in the same family of viruses as COVID-19 called “coronavirus’.” Some parts of all coronavirus’ are very similar. A study of children back in 2011-2018 shows that more children had antibodies against the kinds of coronavirus’ that existed at that time, likely because they had coughs and colds more often than young adults aged 17-25. Those increased antibodies to related virus’ may be keeping more children from getting COVID-19.
It is likely a combination of these two things — the ACE-2 receptor production and pre-existing antibodies to other coronaviruses — that explain why children get COVID-19 less frequently and less severely than adults.