Bishop's COVID-19 Updates

List of 5 items.

  • Nov. 15 - Update

    Purple Tier
    The past week has shown a dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases locally, mirroring the disease’s progression in other parts of the country. As a result of this most recent spike, San Diego County qualified for the most restrictive state tier (Tier 1, purple, widespread) on Tuesday because the county’s case rate was above 7.0 for the second consecutive week. For Bishop’s, while it does not require us to close our campus (all schools that have already reopened are permitted to remain open), it does offer us an opportunity to recommit to our COVID-19 prevention policies. We will continue to be vigilant about mask wearing, physical distancing, hand washing and ensuring good airflow when indoors. These simple steps will help mitigate the risk on campus in profound ways. Students are asked to dress warmly since we will keep our doors and windows open even with cooler temperatures. 
    The timing of this rise in case count is particularly concerning in that it aligns with the holiday season, a time when many people travel to spend time with loved ones. Over the course of the next few months, we are asking everyone in the Bishop’s community to be mindful of good COVID-19 prevention strategies. In the meantime, we will continue to pay close attention to the local situation and the numbers within the Bishop’s community as we work to balance health and safety concerns with in-person academic continuity. 
    On Friday, California issued a travel advisory that recommends a 14-day quarantine for anyone coming into the state, effective immediately. This advisory, coupled with the CDC guidance we shared recently about traveling during a pandemic and what to do after traveling may affect your child’s ability to learn on campus. If you have plans to  travel out of state or participate in any high-risk activities, please expect to quarantine at home for two weeks and do not send your student to campus for in-person learning. 
    Vaccine News
    Good news as Pfizer released its initial phase three trial dataregarding its COVID-19 vaccine. We expect to hear news about vaccines and their initial distribution between now and mid-January. As positive as this news is, we should remember that widespread distribution and availability is likely many months away. Until we all have these shots in our arms, we need to continue to practice the good habits we have developed over the past eight months. 
    COVID-19 Risk Assessment
    We tested 200 employees and students through our testing program this week. As we communicated on Friday, one individual, who was symptomatic when tested and used our service as a diagnostic tool while remaining off campus, tested positive. Locally, two of the four county triggers, outbreaks and case rate, remain above the allowable threshold, and the rolling 14-day average of positive tests continues to rise. We would assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus to be on the high side of moderate. We will continue to teach in a blended mode, but we are keeping a close eye on the local numbers and those within our community, and we will communicate immediately if our assessment changes.
  • Nov. 8 - Update

    On Wednesday, the California Health and Human Services Agency announced that San Diego County had an adjusted COVID-19 case rate of 7.4, a value that puts the county on track to revert to the most restrictive tier. If the county’s adjusted case rate next week is above 7.0, San Diego will be placed into Tier 1 (purple/widespread). Should the county move into the purple tier, the Bishop’s campus will remain open to students and employees. The transition to purple, though, will have an effect on many businesses. Specifically, restaurants, movie theaters, museums, zoos, aquariums, and places of worship will have to conduct all of their operations outdoors. Retail establishments must limit capacity to 25 percent, and gyms will not be able to operate indoors at all. 
    As the county potentially moves into the most restrictive tier, we find ourselves asking “What can I do?” This is the ideal moment for all of us to redouble our efforts and commitment to our COVID-19 practices. Wear a mask anytime that you are out of the house, limit gatherings with others, abide by physical distancing expectations, wash your hands regularly and encourage others to do the same. The School will continue to monitor behavior on campus and is asking for help from students and families in terms of off-campus behavior. To this end, Dean of Students Michelle Shea sent a message to the junior and senior classes this week that read, in part: 
    “We need to share a reminder that your choices and behaviors when you are off campus matter and have the potential to impact our community, as well as impacting our ability to keep campus open. When we hear about off-campus extracurricular activities, where students are not wearing masks and not observing physical distancing, we have a responsibility to share our concerns. Disregarding basic COVID-19 protections puts our entire community at risk. That includes other students, staff, teachers, our families and all vulnerable populations. If you find that it is not possible for you to make good choices about basic COVID-19 protections, we ask that you stay home and learn from a distance until it is safe for you to return.”
    This message is consistent with one that San Diego Public Health Officer Wilma Wooten sent this week. According to NBC News San Diego, Wooten issued several cease-and-desist orders to individuals promoting large parties planned in private homes near SDSU. Our assumption is that San Diego County will see increased cases of COVID-19 over the next several weeks. As we continue to work to keep our campus open for in-person education, we ask that every member of our community remain vigilant about their actions and behaviors. 
    Often in November and December, young alumni return to campus to check in with their friends and favorite teachers. In normal times, we love these moments, and we welcome these former students with open arms. This year is different, and we need to ensure that only students and employees are on campus. We look forward to a time when our alumni can return to Bishop’s and share a story and a smile. 
    COVID-19 Risk Assessment
    This week we tested 189 employees and students through our surveillance testing program. All were negative for COVID-19. Two of the four county triggers, outbreaks and case rate, were above the allowable threshold. The rolling 14-day average of positive tests has risen modestly over the past week, ending the week just below 3 percent. We would assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus to be moderate, and we will continue to teach in the blended mode.
  • Nov. 1 - Update

    Halloween costumes and free dress provided a strong dose of levity to the feeling on campus this week. When coupled with picture day for the upper schoolers, life on campus felt pretty normal. Now that November is here, we are already getting a sense of how quickly this first semester will come to an end. As we think about that, we want to make sure that the community has a sense of our schedule and plan for the final weeks of our fall term.
    Post-Thanksgiving Schedule
    While several schools and colleges have made the decision to move to all-virtual learning between the Thanksgiving and winter breaks, we intend to continue to have in-person classes during that time. As we mentioned in an earlier Knights News, we ask that community members who engage in high-risk activities (family reunions, sporting events, weddings, funerals, etc.) during Thanksgiving break self-quarantine for two weeks afterward. We will increase our testing volume and frequency during the week we return, in order to identify cases and avoid potential outbreaks as early as possible. In terms of our schedule, we plan to continue with our current approach for the three weeks between these breaks. Here is what those weeks will look like (assuming that there is no significant change in the disease locally or within our community):

    COVID-19 Risk Assessment
    Given our transition to the EXCITE lab this week, we focused our testing on the adults in our community. We tested 164 employees, and all were negative for COVID-19. Next Thursday, we will restart our student testing with a random sample of the juniors and seniors on campus that day. Due to a substantial increase in testing locally over the past seven weeks, San Diego County remained in Tier 2 (red, substantial) with an adjusted case rate of 6.5, a bit lower than last week. Only one of the county’s four triggers, outbreaks, is above the allowable threshold, and the rolling 14-day average of positive tests has remained steady, in a tight band between 2.65 percent and 2.78 percent. We would assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus to be moderate, and we will continue to teach in the blended mode.
  • Oct. 25 - Update

    Rain Plan
    As the days begin to get shorter and the weather (finally!) starts to get cooler, we have begun to think about how we will teach and learn when it rains in San Diego. Given that many of our teaching, dining, and social activities on campus utilize outdoor spaces that would be compromised on very wet days, the School will announce a move to all-distance teaching on days when we have a forecast for significant rain during school hours. 

    The day prior to a large storm, the School will communicate with families to alert them that we may move to an all-distance learning format for the following day and ask families to keep an eye on the School’s website and social media accounts for additional information. Early in the morning on the day when rain is predicted, if the weather is expected to have an impact on our outdoor spaces, the School will announce its decision to move to a virtual format via email and text alerts. Please note that on days when classroom instruction moves to a virtual format, most after school activities will still take place in person. Individual program heads will communicate directly with students and families if an activity will be affected by weather. 

    Risk Assessment
    This week, 188 employees and students participated in our surveillance COVID-19 testing, and all were negative. The county remained in Tier 2 (red, substantial) with an adjusted case rate of 7.0, right on the line between Tiers 1 and 2. One of the county’s four triggers, outbreaks, remains above the allowable threshold, and over the past week the rolling 14-day average of positive tests has dropped slightly. We would assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus to be moderate, and we will continue to teach in the blended mode.

    We are pleased to announce that Bishop’s is one of a group of five local independent schools that has developed a new partnership with UC San Diego to help conduct our surveillance testing on campus. This new approach will allow us to continue to have weekly RT-PCR testing on campus for all faculty members, plus at least 10 percent of the student body per month. It will offer us increased flexibility in terms of how and when we test, with the same high standard for sensitivity and specificity. Our sample collection approach will change a bit; rather than the nurse-collected throat swab that we have been using, we will now collect samples through an observed nasal self-swab (front of the nose), with School Nurse Susie Fournier, R.N. overseeing the process.

    EXCITE is co-led by UC San Diego faculty members Dr. Rob Knight, professor and founding director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation, Dr. Gene Yeo, professor and co-director of the Bioinformatics and Systems Biology Graduate Program, and Dr. Louise Laurent, professor and vice-chair for translational research in obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences. Dr. Yeo is also actively involved with UCSD's "Return to Learn" program. Tireless efforts on the part of Dr. Fred Wu, who oversees 80+ physicians working ICUs and COVID hospital floors at Scripps Chula Vista, San Diego and La Jolla, has been instrumental in lobbying for and establishing partnerships between the EXCITE Lab and San Diego County independent schools for the purpose of regularly occurring COVID-19 screen testing at a reasonable price point. We are so pleased to be working with this talented group. 
  • Oct. 18 - Update

    This week marked the end of our initial campus phase-in plan and the beginning of our second phase. Four grades were on campus this week: sixth, eighth, tenth and eleventh. We are looking forward to next week when the entire middle school and the juniors and seniors will be on campus. The joy that students bring to campus, even in the midst of these unusual circumstances, breathes life into the School. 

    In anticipation of the School’s Thanksgiving break (Nov. 21-29), we wanted to take a moment to consider how to keep this community safe, from a COVID-19 perspective. We understand that risk tolerance is a personal decision and that what may be right for one family may not be acceptable for another. We ask that families consider their activities in the context of what is best for the entire Bishop’s community and take appropriate steps to help make sure that we keep one another as safe as possible. 

    We anticipate that many families will travel over the holidays, though probably fewer than in a normal year. The Centers for Disease Control website offers travel guidelines with good, practical advice. While travel alone will not prompt a temporary exclusion from the community, if your family engages in higher risk activities, the School expects that students will self-quarantine for two weeks afterward. When we return from Thanksgiving break this year, the School plans to increase the frequency of its surveillance testing program in order to identify any potential COVID-19 cases in our community as early as possible. High risk activities that would require a self-quarantine include:
    • Attending gatherings like reunions, parties, weddings, or funerals
    • Attending mass gatherings like a sporting event, concert or parade
    • Spending time in crowds: in restaurants, bars, airports, bus and train stations or movie theaters
    • Traveling on a cruise ship or river boat
    • One additional resource that is worth checking out is this information that CDC has put together about staying safe during the holidays. The rhythms and familiarity of the traditions that are a hallmark of this time of year can bring such joy and excitement; we want to make sure that we all can celebrate them safely this year. 
    As of Tuesday, San Diego County remained in the state’s Tier 2 (red, substantial) with an adjusted case rate of 6.8. Within our community, 174 employees and students participated in our surveillance COVID-19 testing, and all were negative. One of the county’s four triggers, outbreaks, remains above the allowable threshold, and the rolling 14-day average of positive tests has shown a very slight upward trend over the past week. We would assess the risk of COVID-19 transmission on campus to be moderate, and we will continue to teach in the blended mode and maintain our plan to increase the student population on campus.
For a full list of updates, members of Bishop's community can log in to Blackbaud and visit the "Reopening Campus" resource board.
THE BISHOP’S SCHOOL     7607 La Jolla Boulevard     La Jolla, CA 92037     (858) 459-4021
The Bishop’s School is an independent, coeducational college-preparatory day school for students in grades six through twelve who live throughout San Diego County. Founded in 1909, the School is affiliated with the Episcopal church.