Bishop's COVID-19 Updates

List of 5 items.

  • Jan. 18 - Update

    It was wonderful to see students from all grade levels on campus this week, and we hope to see even more students come to campus in the coming weeks. We know that attending school in person is good for students in a number of ways: the routine of waking up, getting dressed and heading to campus establishes healthy patterns for teenagers; the opportunity to see friends and peers between classes, during milk break and free periods allows for good, non-screen-related social interactions; after-school activities have started up again, and being on campus during the day makes participation easier for students; and we will continue to offer routine COVID-19 surveillance testing (see below), which is more convenient for students who are on campus.
     
    Vaccines. There were several encouraging news items on the COVID-19 vaccine front this week. UC San Diego is working with the county, the mayor’s office, SDPD and the Padres to increase the number of vaccines delivered each day by creating a vaccine “super station” at Petco Park. On Wednesday, Gov. Newsom announced that Californians over the age of 65 are cleared to be vaccinated. This is the first group outside of health care workers to be authorized for the vaccine (and the initial cohort from Phase 1B), but a shortage in available doses has generated some confusion about this phase of the vaccine rollout. And finally, Johnson & Johnson released data from their initial trialsthat seem to suggest its vaccine is safe and triggers an immune response.
     
    Testing. This week, COVID-19 surveillance testing has been moved to the stadium tennis court classrooms number three and four. Any middle school student can test on campus the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 19 between 2 - 2:45 p.m. Please click on this link: Middle School to reserve a spot. Any member of the freshman or sophomore class can test on campus the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 21 between 2 - 2:45 p.m. Please click on this link: Ninth and Tenth grades to reserve a spot. We will monitor both of these sign-ups and if we need to add more time slots, we will. If you have not already, please fill out this waiver to covid-testing@bishops.com prior to testing. There is no need to fill out the waiver again if you turned it in for any of our recent testing dates. 
     
    New cases. We learned this week that two community members have tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently in isolation. One of these individuals was symptomatic at the time of their test and was swabbed off-campus. The other was identified through our surveillance testing. Due to privacy laws, information regarding these individuals’ identities cannot be released, and we are limited in the details we can offer. Please respect their privacy. These individuals were last on campus in mid-December. We have informed the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency about these cases, and they will identify any potential close contacts. If you do not receive notice from us or the health department, you are not considered a close contact.
  • Jan. 10 - Update

    Though it was quiet on campus for the first four days of the new semester, we were so pleased to have the middle school on campus Friday. We look forward to inviting the upper school students to campus next week. 
     
    COVID by the numbers. We tested 435 students and employees through our surveillance testing program this week, identifying two cases which we communicated to the community on Jan. 6. Locally, cases counts are elevated; as of this writing, San Diego has had 37 consecutive days with over 1,000 cases reported. The San Diego County percent of positive cases has risen steadily since late October, and is currently around 15.5 percent. Intensive Care Unit availability in Southern California continues to hover around zero percent. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout for health care workers is ongoing, and it is likely that Phase 1B, which includes individuals who work in education, will start in the next several weeks. 
     
    Testing. We will continue our surveillance testing next week. Any member of the freshman or sophomore class can test on campus the afternoon of Tuesday, Jan. 12 between 2 - 2:45 p.m. Please click on this link: Ninth and tenth grade to reserve a spot. Any member of junior or senior class can test on campus the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 14 between 2 -2:45 p.m. Please click on this link: Eleventh and twelfth grade to reserve a spot. We will monitor both of these sign-ups and if we need to add more time slots, we will. If you have not already, please fill out this waiver to covid-testing@bishops.com prior to testing. There is no need to fill out the waiver again if you turned it in for any of our recent testing dates. 

    New variant. The School is closely monitoring information regarding the new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. Unfortunately we don’t know how this variant will spread or what mitigation strategies will be effective against it. We remain confident about our approach on campus, but we also recognize that what has worked up to this point in the pandemic may need to be adjusted. Science teacher Dr. Tony Pelletier shared a recent paper out of the United Kingdom that suggests communities may have a hard time reducing case numbers while school campuses remain open. While we hope that will not be the case, we want to share information regarding how this disease continues to change. The good news is that early reports show the vaccines appear to be effective against these virus strains.
  • Dec. 13 - Update

    As you hopefully saw on Friday afternoon, we sent three updates including: news of two positive cases, updated criteria for teaching and learning on campus and California's new COVID notification system. Summaries of each are below, you can read the full letter here.

    Positive Cases. In last week’s surveillance testing, two individuals tested positive. These individuals are currently in isolation. We will communicate directly with close contacts. If you do not receive notice from us or our local health department, you are not considered a close contact. 

    Students showing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 must stay home. If families have questions about whether or not symptoms may be related to COVID-19, please have your student stay at home and contact School Nurse Susie Fournierto talk through what they are experiencing. It is better to err on the side of safety than to assume that it is “nothing” and risk inadvertently exposing others to the virus. 

    New Teaching and Learning Criteria. Over the summer, as we prepared to reopen campus, we developed a risk criteria that tied our teaching mode (in-person, blended or distance) to our assessment of the risk of transmission of COVID-19 while on campus. Since then, we have seen increasing evidence that schools with strong mitigation strategies in place are not major sources of transmission. That research is consistent with our experience: None of the COVID-19 cases involving students or employees has been traced to transmission on campus. Despite the increase in the number of cases in San Diego County, spending time on campus does not appear to increase one’s risk of infection. 

    It is our plan to remain in our current hybrid mode, unless there is an order from local or state public health officials that prohibits in-person learning or if we have a significant percentage of our community test positive within a two-week period. The guidance from the California Department of Public Health states that a positivity rate of 5 percent is the threshold for halting in-person learning. Our current assessment is that we would likely transition to distance learning at a lower rate than that, depending on the nature of the cases. 

    California Notify. California has worked with the University of California system to develop a contact tracing system, CA Notify, that works via the Google/Apple developed exposure notification system on smartphones. The benefits of this program are that it is passive and its privacy protections are strong. To be effective, the program requires many people to opt in and activate the system. Click on this link to learn more. The more people who participate, the better the system will work and the safer our community will be. We are hopeful that our community will take advantage of this opportunity to add an additional layer of defense to the approaches we are all taking to stay healthy.
  • Dec. 6 - Update

    The campus has seemed eerily quiet this week without students around. We hope that next week we will be able to bring some of the hustle and bustle back to the Quad, outdoor classrooms and terrace. 
     
    Unfortunately, cases of COVID-19 continued their surge both locally and across the nation recently. Thursday featured the highest number of cases reported in a single day (2,039) in San Diego County. Public health officials have warned that hospitalizations will likely climb over the next several weeks, as those numbers typically lag behind case counts by 10 days to two weeks. Dr. Robert Redfield warned that these coming months could be “the most difficult in the public health history of this country.” 
     
    As bad as the current numbers are, good news continues to come on the vaccine front. At this point, two vaccines (one from Moderna and another from Pfizer/BioNTech) have applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom. It is expected that individuals there could start to receive the vaccine as early as next week, and in the U.S. by the end of the month. The Daily podcast had a very informative episode early this week on when and how you will get the vaccine
     
    Stay at home order
    Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a regional stay at home order this week that will impact many businesses and industries in San Diego County for at least three weeks. The order is applicable in areas where hospitals’ intensive care unit (ICU) capacity falls below 15 percent. Though quite restrictive, the order will not impact school operations. It prohibits private gatherings of any size, closes operations for sectors such as bars, wineries and salons, and requires masking and physical distancing in retail and other sectors. The Southern California region’s ICU capacity fell below 15 percent on Friday, making it likely that the new restrictions will go into effect this weekend. You can find more details about the order on the state’s website.
     
    COVID-19 Risk Assessment
    As we mentioned in the letter we sent out yesterday, we tested 185 employees and 220 students through our surveillance testing program this week. Three of the 405 results were positive. All of those individuals have been informed and are in isolation. Adding the two cases we learned about over Thanksgiving to these three, our positivity rate over the past two weeks is 1.2 percent. While we are concerned about the local surge in cases, we remain confident in our prevention measures on campus. Of the eight known cases within our community since school started, none appears to have originated through on-campus transmission. There seems to be growing evidence that schools are not major contributors to COVID-19 spikes or outbreaks. Though we are monitoring the situation very carefully, it remains our plan to be open in a blended mode this coming week. The situation is fluid, however, and we may need to change course on short notice. We will communicate as soon as we are able if that is the case. 
  • Nov. 22 - Update

    As we head into the Thanksgiving break, we have so much to be grateful for. First, we want to recognize the enormously hard work of our students, faculty and staff. Together, they have made this unusual fall semester feel as normal as possible. We want to thank parents and families for their patience and support as we all learned to adjust to this new normal -- school life in a blended mode, masks, physical distancing and surveillance testing. And finally, we are grateful for all of the frontline workers who put themselves at risk on behalf of the public: nurses, doctors, epidemiologists, EMTs, grocery store clerks, food and grocery delivery workers, mailmen... the list goes on. We hope that over the next few days we can all pause and be thankful for those who are often overlooked and underappreciated. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. 
     
    Locally, COVID-19 has cases have continued to rise. Wednesday marked the eighth consecutive day that San Diego County reported a case number greater than 600. The percent of positive tests has risen over the past three weeks from 2.7 to 4.9 percent. Hospitalizations, typically a lagging indicator, are up significantly as well, and the fear is that as these new cases run their course, the county’s hospital capacity may be strained. In response, city, county and state officials have developed a number of new policies, including a curfew from 10 p.m. - 5 a.m. that went into effect this weekend and will last until at least the third week of December. The San Diego County’s Sheriff's office on Thursday announced a program to enhance the enforcement of public health orders locally in order to address businesses that have been ignoring COVID-related restrictions. 
     
    As we shared on Thursday, the School has made the decision to move to an all-distance learning mode for the week of Nov. 30 through Dec. 4. Thanksgiving this year arrives at a moment when the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing both in our local community and in many parts of the nation. We understand that many people will travel and participate in holiday gatherings over the next week, which could inadvertently lead to a further increase in cases, in turn potentially affecting members of our community. In addition to moving to distance learning, we plan to expand our surveillance testing program in the week following Thanksgiving, making it available to all students, in an effort to identify any community member who may have been exposed over our break. Testing remains optional for students, but we encourage all of our families to participate in this program. Please review Thursday’s message here or see the weekly schedule below for more information regarding on-campus dates and testing.
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.