Coronavirus crisis keeps Bay Area schools closed until May

Officials announced on Wednesday that public school districts in six Bay Area counties are extending closures through May amid the coronavirus crisis. 

Public health officials and county superintendents for Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties made the decision to keep schools closed until at least May 1. 

"So the decision was about continuing to flatten this curve on COVID-19 and also around the districts' need to have a uniform opening date where they could all plan and set expectations with their families and their communities," said Alameda County Office of Education Communications Officer, Michelle Smith McDonald. "So, it's a closure date through May 1 at this point and if that closure date needs to be extended, then we'll all be prepared to communicate that further down the line." 

Originally, most schools were ordered closed on March 16 through the end of Spring Break in April to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

But the Centers for Disease Control says longer school closures of eight or more weeks seem to be more effective at slowing the spread than shorter closures.

School officials underscored that the safety and wellness of students and staff is a top priority as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise around the Bay Area. 

Public health experts say the most effective way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure is through social distancing, which means schools can't conduct in-person classes.

Last week, Gov. Newsom said that it was likely schools would be closed through the summer, but school districts hadn't made any formal decision. 

The governor on Wednesday addressed the viral spread of COVID-19 among school-age children as well as the teachers, staff and administrators serving them. 

"Thirty-seven people under the age of 17 in the State of California are part of those that have tested positive in the State of California," Newsom said. "So three dozen young folks have tested positive. Fifty-one percent, as of today, over half, 18 to 49 years old have tested positive."

Newsom said the state's mandated stay at home order is essential in the fight to contain the virus.