In a press release from the Department of Public Health, California Governor Gavin Newsom began rolling out new guidance for in-person child supervision and limited instruction, targeted support services, and facilitation of distance learning in small group environments. The guidance is meant to help those programs to understand the required health and safety practices needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their settings.
Much of what’s new centers around learning “cohorts,” which are described as “a stable group of no more than 14 children or youth and no more than two supervising adults in a supervised environment in which supervising adults and children stay together for all activities — e.g., meals, recreation, etc. — and avoid contact with people outside of their group in the setting.” The guidance recommends groups smaller than 14 whenever possible.
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Utilizing cohorts is meant to minimize the number of people exposed if a COVID-19 case is identified in a child or staff member of a particular cohort.
“The precautions and considerations detailed in this guidance will ensure that when small cohorts of children and youth, and those that care for them, come together they can do so with the appropriate health and safety measures in place. It’s important that appropriate steps are taken to reduce virus transmission and the risk of infection,” said Acting State Public Health Officer Dr. Erica Pan.
Newsom’s new guidance recommends the use of small group cohorts in TK-12 schooling, including public and private schools, licensed and license exempt child care settings, organized and supervised care environments, distance learning hubs, recreation programs, before and after school programs, youth groups and day camps.
Colleges must be closed if the county they are in is on the state monitoring list. If they are not, the guidelines issued in early August apply, seemingly with use of the cohort system encouraged.
The guidance states:
-Cohorts must be limited to no more than 14, with no more than two supervising adults.
-Cohorts may not interact with other such groups, including interactions between staff assigned to different cohorts.
-Supervising adults should be assigned to one group and must work solely with that group.
-Cohorts must be kept separate from one another for special activities such as art, music, and exercise.
-Physical distancing between children in the same cohort should be balanced with developmental and socio‐emotional needs of the age group.
-Physical distancing between adults must be maintained to the greatest extent possible, and adults and students must wear face coverings, pursuant to the CDPH Schools Guidance.
-One-to-one specialized services can be provided to a child or youth by a support service provider that is not part of the cohort.
-Requirements for adult to child ratios continue to apply for licensed child care programs.
It seems that counties will still be subject to state monitoring and, if they fall onto the state monitoring list, cannot proceed with any of the new recommendations. Schools can, however apply for a waiver.
According to the Los Angeles Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, the Governor allowed local health officers the discretion to grant waivers to school districts and private schools that would permit schools to reopen for in-classroom instruction for students in grades TK through grade 6 once case rates were under 200 per 100,000 people.
On Tuesday, the case rate per 100,000 people in Los Angeles is 196 cases per 100,000 residents.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ferrer said that it is too early to tell if the County’s 14-day case rate will remain below 200 especially given cases reported on Monday and Tuesday are typically lower than other days of the week. She said the Public Health Department will continue to monitor the case rate reported by the State.
Ferrer: “Public Health is working to assess the new guidance issued today by the State to determine what additional adjustments may be needed before opening up the waiver process.”
Newsom announced last week that the state will be issuing new guidelines for reopening businesses in its counties.
The governor revealed that watch periods may vary from business sector to business sector. The modifications would also impact the current stay-at-home order, he said. Newsom was careful not to reveal the exact direction of the guidelines — whether looser or more strict, except for one small detail.
“It has been traditional to look at a 14 day period,” he said, in terms of safety periods before reopening. Newsom said that, in some cases, those watch periods could extend “potentially up to 21 days.”
There were echoes of those comments earlier Tuesday, as California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly took over for Newsom and gave the state’s coronavirus update.
Ghaly spoke a little more broadly about longer time frames for some sector reopenings.
When asked specifically about the new guidelines, Ghaly said he wanted to wait for the governor to announce them but added, “We also know that it’s important to continue to watch how changes are manifest in communities and the data.” Ghaly continued, “Sometimes moving sooner than you get a clear indication doesn’t allow you to think how some of those changes have impacted you.”
That jives with Newsom’s comment that “watch periods could extend “potentially up to 21 days,” making longer watch periods seem like a very real possibility in some cases.
The full extent of Governor Newsom’s new guidelines will likely be revealed at his Wednesday news conference.
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