Health officers from 10 Bay Area counties and one city Friday called for California schools to open for full-time, in-person learning in fall 2021.
Officers from Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sonoma and the city of Berkeley issued a statement supporting opening schools for all grades.
"The lack of in-person learning has disrupted education, weakened the social supports provided by school communities, negatively impacted mental health, and prevented participation in the rituals and shared milestones that tie our communities together," according to the group statement. "The science is now clear that the risk of transmission among children wearing masks is very low, even with reduced spacing between desks," the group asserted.
Factors supporting this conclusion include that in the Bay Area and throughout the state, there are high rates of vaccination among people at increased risk of severe disease, including older adults and those with a high risk of medical complications, according to the group. Also, children 12 and older are now eligible for vaccinations and there is low overall community prevalence.
The group noted that "many schools" in California have brought students and teachers back to campus under the guidelines of the California Department of Public Health including requirements for face covering, basic cleaning, enhanced ventilation, and other measures to facilitate a safe return to in-person instruction.
Schools are not legally mandated to reopen in the fall, nor has Gov. Gavin Newsom called for them to do so. California will reopen on June 15 without any capacity limits or physical distancing requirements for businesses or events, the state's Health and Human Services secretary said May 21.
Newsom in April had announced the expected June 15 reopening date, which state officials confirmed as COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations continue to drop and the number of people vaccinated continues to increase.
A Sonoma County education official added his voice to the group endorsing a return to in-person education in the fall.
"Students, parents, teachers, coaches - and their families - deserve our thanks for the considerable sacrifices they have made," said Dr. Sundari Mase, Health Officer and Public Health Division Director of Sonoma County. "It's time to move past the remote-learning model and back to the full range of learning and support that our educational communities provide."