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COVID: Despite Omicron Surge, San Francisco Health Officials Back Resumption Of In-Person Learning

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Even as the omicron variant is driving a spike in COVID-19 cases, San Francisco public health officials reiterated their support for the resumption of in-person learning at schools after the holidays.

In a statement released Wednesday, the San Francisco Department of Public Health said "multiple layers of health and safety protocols" have kept schools open during the pandemic and urged families and schools to continue following safety recommendations.

"San Francisco has remained vigilant and beat back four surges, and we are well positioned with a highly vaccinated population to do the same with this current surge due to Omicron," public health director Dr. Grant Colfax said.

"We must do everything possible to keep students safely attending schools," said Dr. Susan Philip, the city's Health Officer. "The mental health impacts on students due to social isolation far outweigh the challenges of in-person learning."

Health officials said vaccination, along with testing after travel and gatherings, staying home when sick and mask wearing are key to keeping schools open for in-person learning during the latest surge.

SFDPH acknowledged that when community rates of COVID are high, cases will appear at schools, as they do in other settings.

"However, with effective health protocols in place, the data shows that these multiple layers of defense can stop the spread of COVID in school settings," officials went on to say.

Mayor London Breed voiced her support for the resumption of in-person classes after the holidays. "I appreciate this guidance from our public health experts on the importance of keeping our students safely in the classroom," the mayor said. "We know how hard the last two years have been on our kids, and we need to focus on what's best to support them, while also putting policies in place to ensure that everyone in our schools is protected."

The announcement from public health officials comes as SFUSD superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews issued his own statement reminding families of safety recommendations and that classes are expected to resume on Monday.

"In-person learning offers the best form of instruction for our students and school is the right place for our students to be," Matthews said in a video posted on the district's Twitter account.

With the holidays winding down, SFDPH recommended school students and staff to undergo COVID-19 testing 1-2 days before returning to campus, regardless of vaccination status. Testing is also recommended 3-5 days after returning from travel.

Health officials also recommended everyone who is eligible for vaccination or a booster shot to get one, to wear face coverings and to stay home when sick.

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