Berkeley school district prepares for COVID-19 cases after spring break

As students return to school after spring break, the Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, is bracing for a potential spike in COVID-19 cases.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, California Governor Gavin Newsom distributed 14.3 million rapid COVID-19 tests to schools across the state. The action was taken as part of its SMARTER plan, introduced last month with the ramp-up of the omicron variant.

“We know COVID-19 is still present in our communities, but the SMARTER plan is how we keep people safe and continue to move the state forward,” Newsom said in a press release.

The SMARTER plan helps support BUSD by ensuring students have access to rapid home test kits and other materials, as well as following the preventative measures listed under the initiative. SMARTER means injections, masks, awareness, reading, testing, education and Rx treatments: everything is included in the plan.

California schools also received personal protective equipment, receiving hand sanitizers, gloves and 40.6 million masks when students returned from winter vacation.

“State support for testing this year, including coordinating home testing during the winter and spring breaks and providing the testing equipment and technicians that allowed us to test our students and staff each week has been a critical support and certainly helped us keep schools open during the Omicron surge,” BUSD spokesperson Trish McDermott said in an email.

As schools across the state receive an influx of rapid tests after spring break, schools across BUSD are scrambling to combat the spread.

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers, or BFT, is made up of various faculty such as teachers, counselors, substitutes, and many others who serve the students of Berkeley public schools. Their goal as a unified community is to improve working and learning conditions for students and faculty.

The BFT has endeavored to encourage precautions to ensure everyone’s safety as students arrive after the break.

“We are pleased that all staff and students are benefiting from rapid at-home testing,” BFT Chairman Matt Meyer said in an email. “We encourage everyone to take a quick test before returning to school.”

The number of COVID-19 cases in the city of Berkeley, calculated on a seven-day average, has declined since February, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. The dashboard shows the average positivity rate, as of the week of March 28, is 1.01% after previously noting the positivity rate of 4.6% for February 5.

Although cases appear to be declining, schools in Berkeley continue to take precautions.

“We hope all students and staff will take the necessary precautions to minimize risk during spring break,” Meyer said in the email.

Contact Kai Lock at [email protected]and follow her on Twitter at @kaalockk.

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