Cases: The County is sticking to current quarantine protocols related to youth outbreaks. SMDP image

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has launched an online Covid-19 case dashboard that shows promising early results of its efforts to limit transmission on campus.

As of Sept. 8, the District had twelve positive cases across its approximate 10,600 students and 1,600 staff members, who are all required to be tested weekly. A total of 41 individuals are currently in isolation due to a positive test result or COVID-like symptoms, while 363 individuals are quarantined due to exposure to someone with a positive test result.

Exposed students and staff who are fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine as long as they remain asymptomatic.

Of the 6,656 district students ages 12 to 18 who are eligible for vaccination, 5,224 have received at least one dose. This represents a 78.5 percent vaccination rate for eligible students, which is slightly lower than the 83.1 percent rate across the general Santa Monica population and significantly higher than the 61.8 percent rate in Malibu.

There is a vaccination mandate in place for all SMMUSD staff with exceptions granted for religious or medical reasons.

Per Public Health guidelines, SMMUSD defines an exposure as being within the same class as someone with Covid-19, being within 6ft of someone with Covid-19 for 15 minutes within a 24 hour period, or having direct contact with the bodily fluids of someone with Covid-19.

As a result of this definition, the number of students in quarantine is much higher at secondary schools where students’ class groups often change across subjects. For example, while both Franklin Elementary School and Santa Monica High School currently have two positive test results, only 16 students are in quarantine at Franklin compared to 178 at Samohi.

Although the quarantine requirements may seem burdensome, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer maintains that they are an essential tool to control campus spread of Covid-19.

“This is the power of quarantine: it does stop chains of transmission before they can take off,” said Ferrer in a Sept. 9 media briefing. “And, while it certainly disrupts and it’s a big inconvenience to families, the alternative is widespread infection transmission galloping through schools at rates that are more likely to lead to large numbers of exposures and extended outbreaks.”

Across the County, school districts have been fairly successful in limiting transmission on campus. According to Ferrer, about 0.5 percent of the 1.5 million students in the County and 0.7 percent of the 175,000 staff members have become infected since schools reopened.

“This does not imply that the infections happened at schools, many of these infections happened before students came to school and some of these infections are also due to the high rates of community transmission and exposures outside school and in your homes,” said Ferrer.

The Department of Public Health tracks school outbreaks, which are defined as three or more cases where the probable cause of transmission was school activities. Over the past two school weeks, DPH recorded 12 total outbreaks across all K-12 youth.

“While the small number of confirmed outbreaks is, as you can see, very low given that we have over 3,000 school buildings open, and this is a positive sign that mitigation efforts may be very effective at reducing transmission in the school setting, we do anticipate an upward trend in outbreaks as more schools are open,” said Ferrer.

At a County level, cases are continuing to slowly but surely trend downwards, including across all school age groups.