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California tightens rules for reopening schools as high COVID-19 rates hold districts back

Paloma Equivel, Los Angeles Times |

Under the new guidance, K-6 schools in counties with a seven-day average of 25 or fewer cases per 100,000 residents would be eligible to begin reopening, down from the 28 cases per 100,000 that the governor had announced in December.

That number is significantly lower than the current rates in many California counties, offering diminished hope that schools — particularly in Southern California — can reopen soon. In L.A. County, for example, the adjusted COVID-19 case rate is 77 per 100,000 residents; Orange County, 79; Riverside County, 107; San Bernardino County 103 and San Diego County, 70.

The governor also announced Thursday an online reporting portal and hotline that will allow parents and staff to report school safety concerns and a website that will serve as an information hub for reopening and allow school administrators to request technical help to develop and implement safety plans.

The reopening guidance requires that masks be worn by all students regardless of age and recommends that staff members who come into regular contact with others wear disposable surgical masks.

Under the guidance, some of which was described in a letter to local health officers and superintendents, schools should also ensure that teacher and staff desks are at least six feet away from student desks. Schools were also told they must make “a good-faith effort” to ensure that student chairs are at least six feet apart from each other. “Under no circumstances should distance between student chairs be less than four feet,” the letter says.

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