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Experts Weigh In On Children Going Back To School While LA COVID Cases Surge

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Experts are urging Los Angeles County residents to take safety measures as a surge of COVID cases makes some parents nervous about sending their children back to school after winter break.

The Burbank School district held an emergency meeting to discuss a delay in students returning to school due to the surge of cases. The district decided not to delay, so students will return to classes Monday as planned.

"A lot of teachers who traveled did the right thing: they went to get their testing but they don't have the results yet, so they don't feel safe returning," said Diana Abasta, President of the Burbank Teachers Association.

Los Angeles County reported nearly 45,000 new cases of COVID-19 this weekend, an alarmingly high number in light of the typical delays in weekend reporting.

Officials reported 23,553 new cases for Saturday, and another 21,200 positive tests Sunday, after a one-day record of 27,091 new infections were reported Friday.

Four additional deaths related to the coronavirus were also logged this weekend, two each on Saturday and Sunday.

School officials in Los Angeles are tightening regulations so that students can return to school safely.

Health officials continued to urge residents to curtail higher-risk activities, including indoor activities where individuals are unmasked for long periods of time, as well as crowded outdoor events.

"We hope that by working together to implement essential public health safety measures, we can stay safe, protect those we love, and keep our schools and businesses open," County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said. "During this surge, given the spread of a more infectious strain of the virus, lapses can lead to explosive transmission. Well-fitting and high-quality masks are an essential layer of protection when people are in close contact with others, especially when indoors or in outdoor crowded spaces where distancing is not possible."

"Although masks can be annoying and even uncomfortable for some, given that many infected individuals are spreading COVID 1-2 days before they are symptomatic, the physical barrier tendered by a mask is known to reduce the spread of virus particles," she said.

Evidence suggests that only those who have recently completed their vaccination series or are boosted have significant protection from becoming infected with the highly contagious Omicron variant, according to Public Health officials.

"The days ahead will be extraordinarily challenging for all us as we face extraordinarily high case numbers reflecting widespread transmission of the virus. In order to make sure that people are able to work and attend school, we all need to act responsibly," Ferrer said late last week.

She also noted that overall, COVID death rates have remained relatively flat in the county, despite the dramatic surge in infections, but she said that could change.

"Deaths fortunately remain low and they haven't changed, but this is because we're only about a week out from when our hospitalizations started rising," she said.

Officials have said about 90% of the COVID deaths during the pandemic occurred in people who had underlying health conditions. The most common conditions are hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

"We all want our kids back in school, that's not what this is about. This is about asking ourselves if we have had enough time to appropriately do what we need to do to keep our kids safe," Burbank school board member Emily Weisberg said.

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