COVID more than triples in a week at Berkeley schools, superintendent says

Berkeley High School next to the civic center in Berkeley, Calif., on July 21, 2021. (Harika Maddala/ Bay City News) 

COVID-19 cases have more than tripled at Berkeley schools in a week's time, the district superintendent says. 

On Thursday, Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Brent Stephens sent a message to the community saying that their COVID-19 case response team processed 91 on-site cases. 

"This is more than three times the 29 cases from the prior week and aligns with an uptick in cases in our region. We are seeing similar numbers this week," Stephens wrote. 

He reminded the community to stay vigilant. "We are also experiencing a growing number of multiple-case infections in individual classrooms, on sports teams or among other groups. This is likely due to the increased transmissibility of the Omicron BA.2 variant and may also be exacerbated by the loosening of masking restrictions."

This week, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that three out of four children in the U.S. have had COVID-19, an alarmingly high statistic. 

As the superintendent notes, masking on public transit has all but evaporated from a mandate standpoint, although depending on your region, many choose to continue masking on planes, buses and other forms of public transit. BART officially decided to keep their mask mandate in place for riders and employees on Thursday. 

The superintendent said the district will work with Berkeley's health department on response strategies for the district's multiple-case instances. 

He included a list of a list of mitigation practices for this uptick: 

  • Staying up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Monitoring for symptoms daily.
  • Staying home with symptoms.
  • Testing negative, with improving symptoms and no fever, before returning to BUSD.
  • Masking indoors, per the strong recommendation to do so from the California Department of Public Health, and using higher quality surgical or KN94 masks when possible.
  • Participating in weekly BUSD testing.

Testing remains available at all pre-K through 12 schools within the district. 

The superintendent's message explains that during the January omicron surge, contact tracing and close-contact notifications were possible through additional staff, but that won't possible this time around due to work that staff has been assigned with other district departments. 

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While close-contact notifications are suspended, the district community can expect a weekly case-count letter and test schedule to be sent on Fridays. 

"While supplies last, we will be distributing iHealth at-home tests to Berkeley High School students during dismissal tomorrow (Friday)," the message read. "Students testing positive should isolate at home and should not attend school on Monday."

The district awaits a shipment of an additional 10,000 at-home tests from the CDC.