As COVID surges in California, what do the new restrictions mean for schools?

Mayor Eric Garcetti on Monday warned residents about COVID-19: “The risk of this disease has never been higher. And the accelerating pace of infections has never been swifter. Infections are up. Hospitals are fuller. This virus is causing more people in more places more rapidly to get sick than any time since the earliest days of this crisis. Los Angeles is in a very dangerous situation.”

The mayor’s statements came after Governor Gavin Newsom hit the brakes on the state’s reopening plan. 

California on Monday recorded its highest number of new cases since the pandemic began — more than 13,000.  

As of today, almost all Californians are under tough restrictions on what they can do and where they can go. Most of the state is now in the most restrictive tier in the governor’s reopening plan, including all of Southern California. That means people can’t eat inside restaurants or go to a gym. People have to wear masks at all times outside their homes. 

But some schools will be able to stay open.  

“The rule is: Once you open as a school, you can stay open unless, because of an outbreak at your school, you have to close,” says Howard Blume, LA Times education reporter.

Schools that were phasing in a reopening plan can continue to do that too. It’s only schools that are still closed that have to put off their plans. Elementary schools can also still apply for waivers to reopen, regardless of the county’s status.

“The logic to it is that schools are not necessarily where people are spreading the virus, and that the harm of keeping students out of school is so significant that it is worth some degree of risk. It’s a tradeoff. It’s risk vs. risk,” says Blume.