With the rapid increase of COVID-19 cases, Bainbridge Island School District superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen warns the community that there could be temporary class or school closures.
In a Jan. 7 newsletter, Bang-Knudsen said the district is committed to in-person learning for students’ academic and social-emotional growth, but warned of temporary closures if there is not enough staff to safely operate the schools, or if directed by the Kitsap Public Health District.
“If this occurs, schools will be closed — similar to snow days — and the day(s) will made up in June,” he says in the newsletter. “We actively monitor staff absences and are prepared to implement creative staffing solutions, if necessary, to prevent this from occurring, but it could reach a point where we simply do not have sufficient staffing levels.”
Notifications would be made in the same manner as snow day alerts. Bang-Knudsen advised parents to check their email and the BISD website prior to sending students to school.
“No news — school is on as scheduled,” he said.
The superintendent asks for the community’s help to keep schools open and stressed the importance of continuing to mask indoors with a high-quality, properly fitting mask, staying home if sick and keeping students home if they exhibit COVID-like symptoms.
BISD students and staff are encouraged to use the BISD COVID testing center, open on school days from 6:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. In addition, Kitsap Public Health District offers testing six days a week.
KPHD has clarified that if students or staff are fully vaccinated and are not exhibiting COVID symptoms they may continue to attend school even if an outbreak is determined.
The Department of Health has tracked cases among children statewide, along with the risk of reinfection for everyone.
The finds show among youth up to 19 years old case rates were rising. Those 14-19 had the highest rate. Between Dec. 12-26, 2021 there were 11,356 cases. Hospitalizations were rising with 45 during those two weeks. In 2021, there were a total of 11 deaths.
The information is broken down into Educational Services Districts. Bainbridge is in ESD 121 and North Kitsap in ESD 114. Because of its huge geography and high population, ESD 121, which includes the Seattle metro area, had the highest case count at 7,002 during the two-week period. ESD 114 was in the middle statewide with 336.
Meanwhile, from Sept. 1 through Dec. 26, 2021, 4,404 people had reinfection out of 264,520 cases. About 5% were hospitalized and 1% died. And about 60% were unvaccinated.
Booster shots are the best way to avoid reinfection, the DOH says.
The DOH also released a report based on vaccination status. For 12-34-year-olds, they are twice as likely to get COVID if unvaccinated. They are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized. It’s three times more likely in those 35-64 and 14 times more likely to be hospitalized. It is six times more likely in those 65 and older to get COVID. They are 13 times more likely to be hospitalized and 15 times more likely to die.
The study shows people 65 and older are the least likely age group to be unvaccinated.
Statewide, 73% of people are vaccinated, but in Kitsap County that number is 64%. King County is the highest at 84%.
Age 12 booster
Also, health officials are recommending that everyone age 12 and older receive a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
They recommend that even if the first shot was Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.
“We know booster doses increase an individual’s protection against COVID-19, which is especially important as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads across our state,” said Umair A. Shah, secretary of health.
Another study shows outbreaks in the state. The most-common non-healthcare setting by far is in K-12 schools with 30. The next-highest is three – at grocery stores and youth camps.
In a related story, Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week that the state will be spending $50 million to make 5.5 million COVID-19 tests available to the public.
One million will go to schools and another million to health clinics. The rest will be available to the general population. The state also will make 10 million masks available.
Inslee noted people are having a tough time finding tests because of the rise in the very contagious omicron variant. He reported that cases have gone up 146% in the last week, with 46% more hospitalizations.
The governor said people with non-urgent conditions should seek help from their primary care doctor rather than go to the hospital, which is overcrowded.
He said he wants to keep kids in school and better testing and masking will make that possible. “In school, education is more effective,” he said. “We have the tools available to protect ourselves.”
Inslee said he knows there will be some tough times in the weeks ahead with staff shortages. “There will be some temporary disruptions in services in the state we need to be prepared for,” he said.
He encourages folks to get booster shots. He said they provide more long-term immunities than even the natural immunities of someone who already had COVID. “You have better odds of staying out of the hospital,” and avoiding death, he said.
Regarding masking, he said the M-95 is best but surgical masks also are good, especially wearing two of them. Cloth masks should be washed after each use.