Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled a new effort Wednesday to reopen California schools for in-person learning as early as February and March.
The governor is proposing an additional $2 billion in funding to support schools' spring reopening, with a focus on bringing young elementary students back first, as well as students with disabilities, those in foster care, and those who are homeless.
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"As a parent of very young children, in person-instruction -- there's just no substitute for it. It's so much more difficult for a 4-year-old to focus on a device than a 14-year-old," Newsom said.
In order to reopen schools for in-person learning, counties must have fewer than 28 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents. According to the most recent data released by the California Department of Public Health, only nine large counties have a seven-day average of new cases below that threshold: Alameda, Humboldt, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Sonoma. (See where your county stands using the interactive graph at the bottom of this page.)
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Other parts of the new plan include:
- Increased testing: California will work toward testing all school staff and students, with the frequency of testing depending on the county's reopening tier.
- PPE: All staff will be required to wear surgical masks and all students will be required to wear masks in the classroom.
- Contact tracing: State contact tracers will monitor schools and help coordinate with local health departments.
- Vaccinations: School staff will be prioritized as part of Phase 1B of vaccination distribution.
Gov. Newsom said the state wants to "support all communities to be on track for safe in-person instruction by early spring 2021."
State Board of Education president Linda Darling-Hammond added that reopening schools could be an opportunity to re-invent the school system, suggesting that extended school years, outdoor classrooms and project-based learning could be here to stay.
"We need to understand the school year in new ways," she said. "Many districts want to and will be supported to continue to expand the school year, to offer schooling in the summer."
The governor also gave an updates on the state's overall COVID-19 situation. While the number of new daily cases is starting to trend downward, it remains concerningly high, with more than 30,000 new cases reported in the past 24 hours.
The state also saw an additional 432 deaths over the past day, which is far and away a new record. The previous record was 379 deaths, set on Dec. 17.
Two of the state's regional stay-at-home orders were extended indefinitely on Tuesday, for Southern California and the San Joaquin Valley. The Bay Area and Greater Sacramento area also face possible extensions.
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The primary concern in California remains hospitalizations, particularly in intensive care units.
The remaining ICU capacity in each region, as of Tuesday, are:
- Northern California: 31.5%
- Bay Area: 7.5%
- Greater Sacramento: 17.4%
- San Joaquin Valley: 0%
- Southern California: 0%
See the tracker below to find out how COVID-19 cases are trending in your county.
To see a larger version of this graph, click here to view the full trend tracker in a new window