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Oakland Teachers, Staff to Demonstrate for Increased COVID Testing in Schools

OAKLAND (BCN/CBS SF) -- Teachers and staff with the Oakland Unified School District calling for increased voluntary COVID-19 testing and other measures in order to minimize cases and outbreaks on school campuses will hold a demonstration Thursday afternoon to drive home their point.

Teachers and staff with Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the Oakland Education Association plan to demonstrate outside the Oakland Unified School District offices at 4 p.m., according to a news release from both unions.

The unions are calling on the district to "immediately increase student safety through voluntary weekly student testing, outdoor mealtimes, and improved ventilation in larger common areas, among other measures."

The demand is in response to "an increasing number of positive COVID cases among students," union officials said.

Currently, there are 86 student cases and 15 staff cases listed on the district's COVID dashboard for the week of Aug. 16, as well as seven classrooms in full at-home quarantine as of Thursday morning.

All but one of the quarantined classrooms are at elementary schools, according to the dashboard.

Earlier this week, a COVID testing mishap led to a slew of problems for at least three schools within the district.

More than a dozen false positive tests, when they should have indicated COVID negative, forced the Alameda County Department of Health to direct at least one classroom at Montera Middle School into full quarantine at home.

"We're very regretful it's happened. As soon as we got some concerns, we started digging into it," said Oakland Unified School District spokesperson John Sasaki.

According to Oakland Unified School District officials, Vestra Labs conducted rapid antigen tests at school campuses Friday, after other positive tests came to light. It's unclear how many students or staff at Montera Middle, Montclair Elementary, and Oakland High School were tested overall.

"Oakland schools have implemented multiple safety layers to protect students, families, and staff, but we are not living in the same reality of just six weeks ago," OEA President Keith Brown said.

"Our community case rate has taken a turn for the worse -- it's 10 times higher now than when many of our safety policies and agreements were first developed," Brown said in the news release.

Alameda County's 14-day total of new cases was 4,319 as of Monday, down from 5,247 on Aug. 18, according to the county's Public Health Department.

On July 15, that number was 2,273 and on June 8 it was 455.

The unions say that more than 1,000 teachers, parents and other community members have signed a petition calling on the school board to adopt a resolution from Board Director Mike Hutchinson that would initiate voluntary weekly testing at every campus across the district for all students and staff.

The unions are also asking that more breakfast and lunch breaks are held outdoors, that social distancing is implemented in cafeterias, that industrial-size air purifiers are installed, that "a clear metric" is developed for triggering a response to dangerous air quality and that plans are put in place in the case of power outages that prevent the use of HEPA filters.

OUSD officials were not immediately available to comment on the unions' demands.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


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