SAN ANTONIO – The City of San Antonio has added a new school safety indicator to its COVID-19 dashboard to help school districts and parents understand the current risk level to reopening schools to in-person learning.
The indicator, which was revealed Wednesday during a virtual town hall hosted by the city, shows the current risk level is at high, which is the red zone.
The two other zones are low, which is represented by the color green, and moderate, which is represented by the color yellow.
Dr. Junda Woo, the Metro Health medical director, says when the risk level is at red or yellow, reopening schools is optional. Schools can reopen to an extremely limited at-risk population, for example, children with special needs, children who are safer at school than at home or children who don’t have access to Internet.
“I’m thinking about extremely small cohorts. So, pods of maybe six children,” she said.
The green zone means the risk level is low, but social distancing guidelines and face masks are still necessary.
Metro Health will be using three safety indicators to determine which zone schools are in.
- Positivity rate - which is defined as the percentage of lab tests performed in the past week that ended up being positive for COVID-19. The rate is currently at 14.8% The goal is to get it down to 5% or lower.
- Doubling time - which is defined as how many days it takes for the number of cases to double. The doubling time is currently at 21 days which Woo described as “good.”
- Two-week continuous decline in COVID-19 cases which hasn’t been reached.
Woo said that each district should create its own COVID-19 panel. The panel should be seven members and include the following people:
- 1 student
- 1 teacher
- 1 parents
- 1 non-instructional staffer
- 1 school nurse, pediatrician or adolescent health care provider
- 1 human resource representative
- The seventh representative is a person who is best reflective of their community
The medical person on the panel will communicate directly with Metro Health.
Woo said that although early research shows that children are less likely to get sick, they’re not immune to the coronavirus.
“There are 81 children right now in Bexar County hospitals,” Woo said.
The science behind child-to-child transmission and child-to-adult transmission is also unclear.
“There are some studies that show children and young people don’t transmit as much, but those studies happened at a time when schools were closed, so it’s confusing,” Woo said.
Woo warns that case investigations and contact tracing will be laborious once schools reopen.
“I’m a little afraid of what it might look like if we have to do it many times a year for multiple schools,” she said.
The COVID-19 Pre-K - 12 consultation group came up with the recommendation to create the new school safety indicator tool.
Metro Health is expected to release an amended health directive for reopening schools later this week.