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Fresno's Top Doc Sees Early October as Possibility for Reopening Some Schools
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By Jim Jakobs, Digital Producer
Published 4 years ago on
September 14, 2020

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Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra is optimistic about the county’s chance of moving into the next tier of reopenings sooner rather than later.

Fresno County remains in the purple tier and the state considers COVID-19 to still be widespread here. The next tier — red — would put the county into the substantial spread category, but allow some things to open. The state updates these tiers every Tuesday.

Fresno County has a 9.8% test positivity rate and 12.6 cases per 100,000 residents, according to data shared with GV Wire℠ by the state Department of Public Health on Monday morning. To move to the next tier, those numbers need to be less than 8% test positivity, and between four to seven new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

Vohra says that by next week’s update, he believes the county will have made enough progress on case positivity to start the clock ticking on reopening schools.

Requirements for Reopening Schools

“So we may kind of be in the purple-to-red transition zone. Not that it would really change what’s permissible, but I think it allows us to reopen sectors without waiting a whole two weeks.”  Dr. Rais Vohra, Fresno County interim health officer

Schools in the purple tier aren’t permitted to reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive a waiver from the local health department for grades TK-6.

Vohra explained to reporters during a Zoom call on Friday that he’s working under the belief there’s a hybrid version.

“So we may kind of be in the purple-to-red transition zone,” said Vohra. “Not that it would really change what’s permissible, but I think it allows us to reopen sectors without waiting a whole two weeks.”

California will allow schools to reopen for in-person instruction once their county has been in the red tier for at least two weeks.

Based on what he’s seeing, Vohra believes the case positivity rate could dip below the 8% figure when the state releases updated data on Sept. 22.

“That two-week timer might start on Tuesday instead of a week from Tuesday if we hit that metric,” explained Vohra.

GV Wire℠ asked Vohra: “‘You’re thinking maybe we could start opening up schools the first week of October?”

“Yeah,” said Vohra. “That’s, again, a big if.”

Fresno County Superintendent of Schools

Jim Yovino Fresno County Superintendent of Schools

“It could start with K-3, then maybe K-6, and finally K-8. Every school district will decide what that will look like.”  Jim Yovino, Fresno County superintendent of schools

Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino said he and his team are working with the county Department of Public Health the next three days on what the reopenings might look like.

“There will be many restrictions,” Yovino told GV Wire℠ over the phone. The most likely scenario: Individual school districts applying for waivers for elementary schools.

“It could start with K-3, then maybe K-6, and finally K-8,” Yovino said. “Every school district will decide what that will look like. It may be 10 to 15 kids in a classroom all wearing masks. Cohorts of students, not mixing classrooms together.”

As far as when all students could expect to return to campus?

“In order to fully reopen, you have to get out of the purple tier,” Yovino said.

Purple-Tier Sacramento County Allows Some Schools to Open

According to the state database, Sacramento County remains in the purple tier.

ABC10 reported Sacramento County Office of Public Health approved school waivers for Sacramento Country Day SchoolFranklin Park Private SchoolSacramento Waldorf School, and Sacramento County elementary schools under the Sacramento Catholic Diocese.

Sacramento County started to allow schools to apply for waivers the last week of August. A total of 18 TK-6th grade schools have been allowed to reopen in the waiver process.

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