How did San Francisco schools prevent major virus outbreaks

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Since the school year started, only five virus outbreaks have been recorded at San Francisco schools where thousands of students attend, SFGATE has learned.

According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, each outbreak only involves not more than five students. Individual cases of these outbreaks do not require hospital attention and are considered “either mild to moderate illness.”

How did it become possible for San Francisco schools?

Among the reasons that helped schools prevent outbreaks was the mask mandate for students and staff during the school day. Apart from mask-wearing, the San Francisco Unified School District, where over 57, 000 students enter per year, required its staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine or to undergo virus testing. The majority of the staff, or 96 percent, have already been vaccinated as of early this September.

In addition to this, the city has already unveiled its plan to have 5 to 11-year-old children get the vaccine once the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children will be authorized by the Federal Drug Administration.

SFUSD said in a statement that leading public health experts are in San Francisco.

“We recognize that as long as there is COVID in the community, there will be cases in schools. By prioritizing and investing in COVID-19 mitigation efforts — including providing PPE to every school site, operationalizing one of the largest COVID-19 testing efforts in San Francisco, and improving ventilation in schools — we can keep our communities as safe as possible,” the statement said. 

SFDPH’s deputy director of health Dr. Naveena Bobba cited the situation of the minimal cases of the virus in schools.

 “In California there have been less outbreaks and definitely less pediatric cases,” she said, adding that only 13 percent of COVID-19 cases last month were pediatric cases.

“Part of that I think is due to our great vaccination rates,” she said. “Because under-12s aren’t yet able to get vaccinated, [the key] is to ensure everyone around them is vaccinated.”

Bobba continued that San Francisco has already vaccinated 81 percent of its eligible residents. Those aged 12 to 17 have already received their complete vaccine doses.

“That really decreases school transmission,” she said. The vaccine, masking and testing mandates in the state, according to Bobba, “offers a huge layer of protection.”

“All these layers of protection help reduce the risk,” she said. “It’s not ever going to be zero, and you will see some minor outbreaks, but we can contain it and we’re doing everything to decrease risk.”