School year to start as young still driving COVID-19 rates- LA accounts for half of deaths in California

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles Unified School District is in final stages for implementation of a plan signed off on by the Los Angeles Board of Education which restores a structure in the system’s academic schedule while making allowances for online virtual classes on a modified shorter school day.

The plan for shorter teaching hours has been met with criticism from parent groups and advocates over what is perceived as a lack of parental input as the LAUSD is pivoting from classroom-based instruction to distance learning in K-12 schools.

Against this backdrop, while the University of Southern California announced it was holding virtual sessions for at least the commencement of this academic year while the California State University system’s Chancellor Tim White said that in addition to online learning he was prepared to resuming some in-person classes “as circumstances might allow.”

The nine University of California campuses with undergraduate classes will also offer most classes online, but like the Cal State campuses, each UC campus is planning to offer a limited number of courses in person. However, even those plans are subject to change and the campuses may not be able to offer any face to face instruction at the beginning of the academic year EdSource reported.

Against this backdrop, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Wednesday Institutions of Higher Education would need to limit campus activities in the near term, as community transmission rates remain high. These higher rates are driven, in part, by younger people between 18 to 30 years old who currently account for 25% to 30% of new infections.

“I know that our decision to delay fully re-opening colleges and universities is disheartening news for our students who were looking forward to life on campus. But this postponement means that we will continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and get to the point where we can return to campus when rates of community transmission are lower,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer, The LA County Director of Public Health said.

“Colleges and universities are an important driver of innovation, cultural vibrancy, and economic activity in the County. At the same time, the very nature of the way that colleges and universities operate creates a significant risk of outbreaks of COVID-19 among students, faculty, and staff. And these risks extend beyond campus into the broader community. That is why we have made the difficult, but necessary decision to limit the reopening of these important institutions,” Ferrer added.

The Public Health Department issued a statement Wednesday outlining requirements for the upcoming academic year:

Colleges and universities in Los Angeles County may continue their essential operations, but most academic instruction must continue to be done via distance-learning. Institutions may continue to offer in person training and instruction only for students who are or will become part of the essential workforce and only for required activities that cannot be accomplished through virtual learning.

All other academic instruction must continue to be done via distance-learning. Faculty and other staff may come to campus for the purpose of providing distance learning, and other activities related to the purposes above, as well as maintaining minimum basic operations.

Colleges and universities should limit their on-campus student residency to only providing housing for students who have no alternative housing options.

Collegiate sports may only proceed in compliance with all the California Department of Public Health Specific Interim Guidance for Collegiate Athletics.

The Health Department also confirmed 58 new deaths and 2,428 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday noting that Public Health has identified 214,197 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of L.A. County, and a total of 5,109 deaths.

The grim milestone of more than 5,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County means that LA account now accounts for half of the total number of deaths in California which as of Wednesday was 10,810. The state has recorded 594,353 cases of the coronavirus since February.

California’s second surge of the coronavirus has resulted in a near doubling of weekly deaths since the spring- with almost 1,000 fatalities in the last week alone – and radically shifted the geography of the outbreak, a Los Angeles Times data analysis found. Suburban and agricultural areas that had been relatively spared during California’s first wave of the virus are now being hit particularly hard.

The City of Los Angeles has convened a national group of medical experts, bioscience firms, and government leaders in an effort to accelerate research into rapid at-home COVID-19 tests, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday.

Such testing is still in development and has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but Garcetti said in his evening briefing Wednesday that he hopes the working group will create momentum for the “innovative tool to radically increase virus detection.”

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