By Dr. Vincent Matthews
Throughout this pandemic we have been fortunate to work with some of the best public health experts in the world right here in San Francisco, who continue to affirm that it is safe to keep schools open.
Even though we are seeing a new wave of community transmission, and that includes our schools, we are committed to keeping schools open with regular access to testing and all the other health protocols that the San Francisco Department of Public Health recommends.
In spite of the pandemic, our schools continue to be places where students have their curiosity sparked and find joy in learning; receive free and nutritious meals; where they learn and build community; and where meaningful relationships are formed.
Today, I’d like to share a few updates with you about what SFUSD is doing to help keep our schools open for in-person learning.
Since winter break we have increased our distribution of masks; over 1.2 million masks have been delivered to schools in the past two weeks alone. This includes 132,130 KN95 masks in addition to hundreds of thousands of surgical and cloth masks.
SFUSD continues to operationalize one of the largest COVID-19 testing efforts in San Francisco.
We have made reliable testing regularly available to students and staff since last spring. Color PCR testing is available for all students and staff at school sites.
To meet the increased demand brought on by the omicron surge, self-swab PCR testing through Color, which we have provided since last spring on a weekly basis, is now available for daily pick up at school sites.
Self-swab kits for all students and staff are available for pick up at any school site, any mobile testing site, or any central office drop-off location. Self-swab kit samples will be collected daily at each school site. Samples can be dropped off at any school site on the courier pick-up route before 10 a.m.; any of the mobile testing sites; or any central office drop-off locations from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
In addition to the Color testing program that we’ve been running for almost a year, during this omicron surge we have partnered with Safer Together to make rapid antigen testing available to the community at school sites and district offices.
We distributed 57,000 rapid test kits for K-12 students, including charter schools, as part of a one-time allocation from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Another 4,500 rapid test kits from SFUSD’s nonprofit partner Spark* SF Public Schools have been ordered for PreK students who were not included in the CDPH home test kits. In addition, SFUSD has also distributed 4,000 rapid test kits for classroom teachers that were donated from business community partners.
We will continue to work together with the City and community partners to meet the needs of our students and staff and respond to the evolving public health guidance as best we can.
Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for all that you are doing to lower the spread of COVID in our community. We are all better off when everyone does their part, including getting vaccinated, boosted and staying home when sick. I know this is a difficult time, but we will get through it together.