San Francisco public schools report zero COVID outbreaks since classrooms reopened

San Francisco schools are bucking the national trend, keeping COVID cases in check.

Doctors and the San Francisco Unified School District said the key is a layered approach, which includes masking and contact tracing. The city's high vaccination rate is also part of the reason the city has managed to keep schools safe.

With the academic year well underway, health officials for the city said so far public schools are helping to keep COVID rates low among children. The health department said cases have been consistently low, and schools have not reported any COVID outbreaks since the start of the academic school year. Health officials when three or more people from different households are infected at school, that is considered an outbreak.

While there have been isolated cases, the district has moved quickly to separate those infected and quarantine close contacts to prevent outbreaks.

"We're really taking a layered approach to this, and taking the recommendations of public health experts," said Laura Dudnick from San Francisco Unified Schools.

Health officials said children in the city's schools have been protected by measures like masking and proper ventilation. The city's overall high vaccination rate has also played a factor.

"Certainly San Francisco's extremely high vaccination rate among eligible persons is really contributing," said Dr. Susan Philip, the city's health officer. "Eighty-one percent of those 12 and up have gotten vaccinated, and that is really outstanding."

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According to the Department of Public Health, as of Sep. 8 there were 227 cases of COVID among the districts' 52,000 students and 10,000 staff members. City health officials said children make up just 11.5% of cases in San Francisco and are bucking the national trend where juvenile cases are surging due to the delta variant.

"And that's in contrast where that percentage has been higher in the rest of the country, where masks, for instance, are not in schools where vaccination rates are lower," said Philip. "So, it really shows the power of all of these levels of protection."

Parent and pediatrician Dr. Lisa Patel said she's happy there have been no outbreaks and that the measures in place seem to be effective in protecting students.

"I am not surprised. I am deeply proud," said Patel. "You know, I actually come from Texas. My brother is an emergency room physician there. They're fighting such a different battle. And I'm really proud to be in the city where people mask up and where people have high rates of vaccination because we know those two things work really well to keep our kids safe."

San Francisco Unified said that while their plan is in place, it continues to evolve in correlation with the pandemic. The district said it will continue to collaborate with other school districts on best practices that are working.