District staff went back to their campuses on Monday, with the start of classes for students pushed back to Tuesday. However, thousands of tests have come back with positive results.
According to an update issued by LAUSD, as of 4 p.m. on Monday, 424,230 students and employees have taken a baseline COVID test. Of that group, 65,630 of those tests have come back positive.
As we prepare to welcome our students and employees back to school tomorrow, we know there is apprehension and we’ve added extra layers of protection for the return to school. pic.twitter.com/RLr0iAvxvX— Los Angeles Unified (@LASchools) January 11, 2022
The district said the positivity rate among students is currently 16.6% and the positivity rate among employees stands at 14.9%.
Adjusting to change
Schools across California are trying to navigate how to return to school as safely as possible, and for some, that's meant taking a step back.
"The data didn't look good. In fact, that data looks scary," said Fidel Ramirez, the CEO of the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, one of the largest charter schools in Los Angeles County.
The school started classes last week but chose to conduct virtual learning for two weeks.
Vaughn has made the difficult decision to hold our Extended School Year (ESY) intersession days virtually from 1/10-1/26. ESY intersession days are provided in addition to the regular scheduled 180 school days required by the state of California. pic.twitter.com/WIf68PYTuO— Vaughn Next Century Learning Center (@MyVaughnCharter) January 8, 2022
"What I was a little surprised with is the number of staff, teachers and support staff that were impacted," said Ramirez. "So when we hit 15% of our staff impacted, either directly by testing positive or had been exposed, that became a real scary factor."
His school campuses in Pacoima and San Fernando are in regions that have been among the hardest hit during the pandemic.
"Has that impacted the way that you make decisions within this region?" asked ABC7 reporter Anabel Muñoz.
"Absolutely," responded Ramirez. "In fact, that's probably one of the reasons why it has been much more stressful. And us - those that have to make those tough costs - we're really focused on the safety of our students and our staff, of course. We literally have lost dozens of loved ones, and of course, dozens and dozens of families have been impacted by this pandemic."
Ramirez said in an effort to help, the school is offering meal boxes for students for the week.
"We certainly are trying to do what we can to support specifically those working parents, such as the case even with some of our teachers, that have kids that come to our own school ... some of the challenges they're facing as well."
On Sunday, LAUSD hosted COVID-19 testing sites at multiple locations in an effort to help students meet the requirement of logging a negative test before returning to campuses. In addition, the district has distributed at-home COVID testing kits.
New records in L.A. County
On Sunday, county health officials confirmed that L.A. County now has more than 2 million total cases of COVID since the beginning of the pandemic.
As Los Angeles County Surpasses More Than 2 Million Total Cases; Hospitalizations Continue Rise Amid Omicron Spread - 43,582 New Positive Cases and 13 New Deaths Due to COVID-19 in Los Angeles County. View: https://t.co/7O75fIBG5L pic.twitter.com/d5Mopmhjk8— LA Public Health (@lapublichealth) January 11, 2022
Officials also said the number of COVID-positive patients in county hospitals has topped 3,400, the highest level since Feb. 11, 2021. As of Sunday afternoon, 14% of the COVID-positive hospitalized patients are in the ICU, and 7% are on a ventilator.
Additionally, 23% of ICU beds are currently being occupied by COVID-positive cases, an increase of 9% from last week.
The county said between Dec. 15th and Dec. 28, the ICU admission rate for unvaccinated individuals was 21 times higher than the rate among fully vaccinated individuals.
Newsom asks for $2.7 billion to battle COVID-19 pandemic
Demand for testing is going up
Over the weekend, a new COVID testing site in Santa Monica with initial capacity to test up to 1,920 people daily opened up to the public.
The drive-thru site is located in the parking lot of the former Sears building at 302 Colorado Ave., near Fourth Street, and will be open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Officials say the new site will also test people for "flurona,'' a combination of COVID and the flu, which was recently detected in a teen by a 911 COVID Testing site in Brentwood.
WATCH: How families are preparing for start of classes as COVID cases surge
People can make an appointment to get tested at the new site, or any of 911 COVID Testing sites at 911CovidTesting.com.
Meanwhile, LAUSD students and employees can get tested at district sites, with appointments available online at achieve.lausd.net/covidtestingappt or by calling (213) 443-1300. Walk-up testing is also available at district sites.