OAKLAND, Calif. - The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) on Tuesday said preliminary findings showed 920 students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 prior to classes resuming this week following winter break, as the district deemed its ambitious mass testing effort "a huge success."
OUSD said in all it learned of 985 total positive results from tests taken Dec. 31 to Jan. 3. The additional 65 people who tested positive were family members or others in the community.
District officials noted that some students and staff members may have been on campus before learning of a positive test result. "... but we avoided potential exposures at school in 96.3% of cases," the district said.
OUSD distributed roughly 41,000 home tests to students and families just before winter break. Families were strongly encouraged but not required to test.
During the break, the district also distributed testing kits to families and on-site testing opportunities were offered, with a special testing clinic at Fremont High School on Sunday, the day before school resumed. On that last day, 525 people were tested, and out of that, there were 74 positive cases, officials said.
Officials said that among the families reporting the results of their at-home test, the rate of positive cases was just 2.2%.
District officials noted that some students and staff members may have been on campus before learning of a positive test result. "... but we avoided potential exposures at school in 96.3% of cases," they said.
OUSD planned to continue offering on-site testing at elementary and secondary school sites this month.
With the spike in cases driven by the highly contagious omicron variant, the district acknowledged that there was a high number of staff absences on Monday, many of which were related to the virus.
"In total, 269 teachers were reported as absent," OUSD officials said, noting that while that number was high, it was manageable and that the district was prepared with substitutes and staff from the central office to fill in at schools to help. "The District expects a continued high level of absences for this week and possibly into the next week," officials said.
OUSD praised the community as a whole for doing its part to help stem the spread of cases by taking part in the mass effort to get tested and by staying home if they're sick.
"Although we know the omicron variant is spreading across the country, we are pleased to see this testing regimen work the way we hoped it would, keeping sick people at home," said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. "The high number of tests taken and results reported show that people in our community are looking out for their health and the health of everyone around them."
As of Jan. 1, all OUSD students 12 and older were required to be fully vaccinated. The district said it has received proof of vaccination records or exemption forms for more than 75% of those students and will continue to reach out to families in an effort to increase that number throughout this month.