Marin middle and high schools students involved in “high-risk” outdoor activities such as sports or performing arts will need to be vaccinated or commit to weekly COVID-19 testing, county officials said Tuesday.
“For the first time, we are recommending surveillance testing for asymptomatic unvaccinated students who are engaged in high-risk activities,” Dr. Lisa Santora, deputy public health officer, said Tuesday at a public webinar before more than 100 participants.
Also Tuesday, Mary Jane Burke, Marin superintendent of schools, said Marin has tentatively set Oct. 28 as a date for a possible first vaccination event for children under age 12, if the pediatric vaccines are approved as expected. Currently, only students 12 and older are eligible to be immunized.
The stricter guidance for student athletes is in line with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health recommendations.
Santora said vaccination is strongly recommended for students, staff and volunteers participating in sports teams.
“For example, football or soccer players may have close contact when battling each other for the ball, or huddling during a game or participating in post-game gatherings,” she said.
Students or staff who are unvaccinated, but who still want to participate, will need to have either one traditional PCR test a week, or two rapid-results antigen tests, she said.
These new guidelines are in addition to the universal masking indoors requirement and a strong recommendation to wear masks outdoors.
Burke, who co-hosted Tuesday’s webinar, said the new guidance on student athletes comes as the county is rolling out a pilot project on at-home rapid antigen tests at select Marin elementary schools.
Depending on the results of the pilot project, all schools in Marin will receive enough at-home test kits to be able to distribute at least one test to each of their families by Nov. 1, Burke said.
“Our goal is that every family and staff member in Marin will have at least one test at home,” she said.
Marin is not recommending surveillance testing, or universal COVID-19 screening, for all asymptomatic students, because it is not seen as productive, Santora said.
The pilot tests, for example, are only being done on students who have symptoms such as a runny nose, cough or fever. So far, of 167 test results reported, only one was positive for COVID-19, Santora said.
According to the updated Marin schools database at coronavirus.marinhhs.org/schools, there have been 107 COVID-19 cases investigated by public health since school started in mid-August. Of those, there have been nine suspected in-school transmissions.
The database, which includes all 116 Marin public and private schools, will be updated by Oct. 1 with the percentages of vaccinated students. As of Friday, 98% of Marin school teachers and staff are vaccinated, according to the database.
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Author: Keri Brenner