Under Newsom plan, counties must reach an almost impossible goal to reopen schools

From staff and wire reports

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that schools will be able to open in February if they are in a county that reaches what seems like an impossible goal — fewer than 28 new Covid cases per 100,000 residents.

According to the CDC, the seven-day average of new cases in San Mateo County is 306 per 100,000 and in Santa Clara County it’s 456 per 100,000.

So Santa Clara and San Mateo counties have a ways to go to reach the governor’s goal in order to reopen the schools.

Statewide, the average is 91.9 cases per 100,000. One of the counties in the best shape is Humboldt, 270 miles north of San Francisco, where there are 122 infections per 100,000. That’s still way above the 28-per-100,000 goal.

San Mateo County’s 7-day new case average. Source: CDC

Newsom’s announcement was widely reported in the state’s news media without any mention of the 28-per-100,000 threshold.

On one hand, the teachers unions — who donated $1.3 million to his election campaign two years ago — will get their wish of continuing distance learning well past February and probably through the rest of the school year.

Santa Clara County’s 7-day new case average. Source: CDC

On the other hand, parents who have been clamoring to reopen schools will think Newsom’s announcement is good news until they learn about the 28-per-100,000 requirement.

The announcement included a promise that school districts will get $2 billion for testing of school employees and students, masks, employees to do contact tracing and vaccinations.

“Safety is key,” said Newsom, whose four daughters attend private schools. “Just reopening a school for in-person instruction on its own is not going to address the issue of safety. We have to focus on these mitigation steps, we have to focus on accountability.”

While previous Covid edicts from Newsom have been imposed without any public hearings or votes, this one will go to the Legislature and school unions for approval. It wasn’t immediately clear why unions would be given the right to veto a proposed state policy, though it illustrates their power in this situation.

California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd expressed appreciation to Newsom the state taking educators’ concerns into account when drafting the plan, but suggested it is not yet airtight.

“In all our conversations and letters sent, we have been calling for tougher safety standards, rigorous and consistent testing, data collection and transparency,” Boyd said in a statement.

“While these tenets are addressed in the proposal released Wednesday, there are many unanswered questions and the devil is always in the details, particularly as it relates to implementation and execution,” he said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, said that schools can be opened safely, noting in an online briefing what he called an “almost counter-intuitive” finding that schools “seem to be doing better when it comes to the level of infection” than the community at large.

“If you really want to get society back to some form of normality, one of the first things you have to do is to get the children back in school,” Fauci said.

Many schools are already offering in-person classes, even with surging coronavirus cases, and there have been few outbreaks, said Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education and an emeritus Stanford University education professor. More than 1,730 schools have received state waivers to reopen classrooms.

“Even in places of high rates of transmission, they are going to school safely,” she said.

Newsom said his recommendation was driven by increasing evidence that there are lower risks and increased benefits from in-person instruction particularly for the youngest students.


  1. Not mentioned in the article is the requirement of masks and other PPE from kindergarten classes on up. What an uncomfortable and dehumanizing environment for kids to learn in, and is completely unnecessary as children are virtually immune to the virus and rarely transmit to others. If they’re going to require these draconian measures for Covid, then they have to do the same or more during flu season, as influenza is deadlier than Covid for kids and younger people.

  2. Not very impossible at all, but what’s overlooked is that many schools already have permission to be open and that continues to be allowed.

    Back on Nov 1, just 2 months ago, we were down to 35 weekly cases per 100K people. Now with the vaccine rolling out, it should be easy to do way better than 35 weekly cases, even with it taking some time to reach herd immunity. Well get case reduction way ahead of herd immunity.

    If the headline said, “a goal which will take 2 or 3 months to achieve” it would be m ore accurate. The vaccine should really help make the case drop off post holidays steeper.

  3. David, I think you’re expectations of the vaccine don’t fit reality. I just read a story that said just 1% of Californians have been vaccinated after three weeks. At that rate, it will take 5.7 years to vaccinate the rest of the state. I got to think that this slow response is intentional because Gavin doesn’t want to give up power. Same for the high bar he’s set for reopening schools. I think he wants to milk this lockdown for as long as possible, so it can help his re-election campaign next year.

  4. Vaccine’s don’t make tests be positive. If this were true, it would have ruined the trial of the vaccines. There are more than one vaccine that are in use. None of them make tests turn positive. Plus so far the people getting vaccines aren’t likely to be getting tested and so few vaccines have been given out that it would be impossible to detect this mystery effect.

    Los Altos schools return to in person classes Monday, after pausing over the holidays.

    The big flaw in the article is that the state already allows schools to be open. The governor is not changing that, but only talking about a future day when schools that have locally decided to stay closed would be expected to open back up if they haven’t already.

    • I just did a quick search using the terms “vaccinated test positive covid” and there are many articles on how people are testing positive after vaccination.

      With two or more doses and additional boosters per patient, the “vaccinated” will continue testing positive for a long time. They’re supposed to test positive!

      As to your point about the vaccinated being less likely to get tested, that may or may not be true, as healthcare and other “essential” workers are routinely tested, vaccination or no vaccination. But if you are right – less testing for the vaccinated – that will only affect total positives not the positive rate. So if you remove them from the test pool over time, the positive rate will actually increase over time.

      Finally, I’m not sure how any of this would ruin the trials, since you should test positive if the vaccine is doing its job by stimulating an immune response. And technically, we’re still in a trial phase for the rolled-out vaccines. How did the animal trials go? Oh, wait, there weren’t any.

  5. Alvin, you can’t be serious? Your lack of ability to reason and understand is breathtaking. The article you linked to in no way suggests that people test positive due to the vaccine itself.
    It is stating the following reasons why someone might test positive after getting the vaccine 1) someone could contract the virus prior to getting the vaccine however did not feel symptoms and thus did not get tested until after they got the vaccine. I.e. – they were already infected and tested positive due to contraction of the virus not due to the vaccine.
    2 the first shot often is not enough to stop someone from Contracting the virus. if you get one shot you might contract the virus before you get your second dose.
    3 even with two doses of vaccine, it is not 100% foolproof and it is possible that you could still get the virus and therefore test positive for the virus.
    4 lastly there is a chance that while the vaccine keeps you from getting sick that you could still contract the virus and not know it.
    None of those reasons are saying that one tests positive for the virus **DUE** to the vaccine. None. Zero. Zilch.
    You could not have been more seeing. Stunningly inept reasoning.

  6. I should clarify one thing they were also saying in your article that you clearly did not read that it takes a few weeks to produce antibodies that can keep you from getting the virus. so someone can get vaccinated with their first dose and that might be enough to keep them from getting the virus in the future but it takes a few weeks for full immunity to kick in. Vaccinations do not lead to positive tests. They to the presence of antibodies but that is not equal to a positive test for the virus itself.

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