COVID is again spreading virulently in Sonoma County, but sending fewer people to hospitals. As schools open, precautions against the disease will be largely voluntary.
Sundari Mase, Sonoma County's health officer laid out the reasoning at a meeting Wednesday.
"Even though we're seeing a lot of transmission of COVID in the community, we are not considering a return to health orders or restrictions at this point. As school resumes, we will be operating under the latest California Department of Public Health guidelines, this includes a strong recommendation to continue wearing masks in indoor public settings, including classrooms."
Recommendations, however strong, aren't mandatory.
The county's office of education has other suggestions---hold large events outside, stagger dismissals so parents bunch up at school gates--but neither are required. Schools Superintendent Steve Herrington said adequate precautions are in place.
"First and foremost, schools will remain open. There will not be a distance learning option. School will be the primary presenter of instruction. The reason for that is we have more tools to manage the illness. We have masks which have been distributed to every school site from the federal government. We have tests, which have been distributed to every school site and we have improved vaccines."
Herrington said if and when an outbreak occurs, they'll be ready.
"We are strongly recommending masking. We also know that should three or more students appear active in a classroom with COVID, the class will, more than likely, observe masking for the ten days required, because everyone's been exposed. The teacher automatically because of Cal_OSHA will be required to wear the mask."
As far as other emerging health threats like monkeypox, Gabriel Kaplan, director of the county's public health division, downplayed the risk to students.
"There's very limited instances of transmission from an infected adult. Most of the cases are with adults. Most of the cases we know about are related to intimate activities, so I think there's very low risk in sending your child to school related to this particular virus."