It’s the end of the school year, but COVID-19 isn’t going on a break. The past month has seen cases rise in Sacramento-region schools alongside the rest of the community. Part of that backdrop includes a bevy of events, prom nights and science camp among them.
After fourth-graders at Mary Deterding Elementary School in Carmichael returned from science camp in the first week of May, the entire grade saw a five-day quarantine due to student exposure to staff and students who had tested positive.
San Juan Unified School District spokesperson Raj Rai said via email that the quarantine not only stopped virus spread within that group, but “provided additional protection to the school community.”
“Consistent with California Department of Public Health guidelines, returning students who were asymptomatic and tested negative were allowed to continue in-person learning,” she said. “Through continued group monitoring and testing, additional positive cases were discovered.”
However, it’s not just group events increasing COVID-19 spread. While the Centers for Disease Control says community level — based on hospitalization levels and new cases — for the county is “low,” community transmission in Sacramento County is “high,” according to CDC metrics, with over 100 cases per 100,000 residents in the week between May 8 - 14.
Across the country, there’s been a 6% decrease over the last week in counties that are at a “low” community level, translating to a 4.2% increase in counties at a “medium” community level and a 1.8% increase in counties at a “high” community level.
As of May 16, per the district’s dashboard, there are currently 48 active student cases at Mary Deterding Elementary, with two new students testing positive. The campus with the next most active student cases, Pershing Elementary, has 13.
On the dashboard, the district currently reports 168 COVID-positive students and 44 COVID-positive staff.
At Twin Rivers Unified School District, as of May 17, there are 178 active cases, 118 of which are students and 60 of which are staff, according to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard.
While San Juan Unified and Twin Rivers Unified do not publish a month-by-month count of all COVID-19 cases to date on its dashboard, Sacramento City Unified School District does.
As of May 17, the district has reported 515 positive cases — 411 students and 104 staff — which exceeds the number of cases reported in March or April.
“Newly evolving variants are increasingly infectious, impacting more close contacts in social and school/work groups,” said SCUSD spokesperson Alexander Goldberg via email. “We strongly recommend face masking indoors, getting vaccinated or boosted and participating in COVID testing.”
Despite increased transmission, mask mandates don’t seem to be returning to schools. There is no COVID-19 update on the SCUSD board meeting agenda for May 19.
Earlier this year, a group of parents organized a petition asking the district to keep its mask mandate through the rest of the current school year, during the initial discussions about removing the mask mandate. They’ve sent out another email to the list of signees, asking them to email trustees to encourage them to add reinstatement of the mask mandate through the rest of the school year to the agenda.
Sacramento City Unified moved from requiring to “strongly recommending” masks on April 18. San Juan and Twin Rivers, which both follow state guidance around masking, lifted their indoor mask mandates weeks earlier, on March 12.
While SCUSD emphasized that “people are getting it [COVID] multiple times and we are seeing clusters of cases impacting schools” in a message to parents sent out May 11, the district continued to underscore that it still strongly recommended — but did not require — face masks indoors.
“While the masking mandate has shifted to a recommendation, face masking is strongly recommended, especially when gathering groups during the school day,” the email reads. “We are encouraging physical distancing as much as possible. Hosting activities and events outdoors is strongly encouraged and advised."
CapRadio acquired an email sent out to parents at Caleb Greenwood Elementary last week in which the principal asked parents whose children were exposed to COVID to “kindly consider wearing a face mask” to school.
At all indoor events held outside of classes, per the latest update to its Return to Health plan on May 9, Sacramento City Unified requires that event organizers either mandate face coverings for entry or a negative COVID-19 test for all participants within 48 hours of the event.
Outdoor events do not require masking, testing or vaccination verification.
According to the district’s policy, it will reopen discussion about reinstating an indoor mask requirement if Sacramento County heads to a “medium” community level per CDC guidelines. The district would automatically reinstate the mandate if the county reached a “high” community level.
San Juan’s COVID Safety Plan does not require event organizers to have a mask mandate or proof of testing for indoor events, but does require testing to be made available within 24 hours of a dance and 72 hours of a rally or assembly.
Samantha Mott, spokesperson for the Sacramento County Public Health Department, said the county continues to follow state guidance around masks.
“As we have learned throughout the pandemic, each surge and each variant brings with it unique characteristics relative to our neighborhoods and communities’ specific conditions,” a representative of the California Department of Public Health told CapRadio via email. “Instead of laying out specific thresholds or triggers, California will continue to evaluate the data quickly and nimbly to determine how to best handle future changes in the behavior of the virus.”
Twin Rivers Unified spokesperson Zenobia Gerald urged parents to use the free COVID-19 test kits from the district to test students “at least weekly, and more often as needed.”
Both San Juan Unified and Sacramento City Unified say they plan to keep offering testing and free face masks for students and staff heading into the coming school year.
Providing feedback on COVID-19 response
San Juan Unified is currently collecting feedback on its COVID-19 response. Feedback for Sacramento City Unified can be shared via an online form.
To provide feedback on the Twin Rivers Unified COVID-19 response by attending a board meeting, those interested can submit a pre-registration form before 5 p.m. the day of a meeting, Alternatively, they can submit a green comment card in-person before 6:30 p.m. at the district’s headquarters, where board meetings are held in-person.
Sacramento City Unified no longer offers the option for public commenters to call-in for comment during board meetings. The only comments accepted are those made on-site at the district’s headquarters, the Serna Center, or via emailing [email protected].
SCUSD spokesperson Brian Heap said people can still reach out to their respective board trustees via email.
Local resources for students, staff and parents
For San Juan Unified students, staff and approved volunteers, free testing is available without an appointment:
- Hemlock Annex (5320 Hemlock St.)
- Monday to Thursday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Friday: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
- Sunrise Tech Center (7322 Sunrise Blvd.)
- Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Creekside Adult Center (2641 Kent Dr.)
- Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- District Office boardroom (3738 Walnut Ave.)
- Friday: 12 to 4 p.m.
Students, staff and household members at Sacramento City Unified can also get tested for free:
- Serna Center (5735 47th Ave.)
- Monday to Thursday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Friday: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
- Employees only can sign up for a surveillance test on Mondays to Fridays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
- Albert Einstein Middle School (9325 Mirandy Dr.)
- Monday to Friday: 4 to 7 p.m.
- Parkway Elementary (2401 Florin Rd.)
- Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Twin Rivers employees and students can get tested at the following sites:
- Norwood Jr. High School (4601 Norwood Ave.)
- Monday to Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- District headquarters (5115 Dudley Ave.)
- Monday to Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Regionally, here’s some of the resources that are still available in both preventing COVID and dealing with the virus if you’re infected. If you suspect you might have COVID-19, you can participate in the national Test-to-Treat program — which allows you to test and acquire treatment for COVID-19 — by looking up a location near you. While the medication is free, some sites may charge for services not covered by insurance.
The U.S. government has also expanded its free COVID-19 test program: in the newest round of the program, households can request up to eight COVID-19 tests and will receive a U.S. Postal Service tracking number upon submitting their address.
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