First published in the Feb. 4 print issue of the South Pasadena Review.
The South Pasadena Unified School District distributed a third round of COVID-19 testing kits to students and employees this week, part of an effort to continuing surveilling for infections as the Omicron wave wanes in Los Angeles County.
Barring any presence of symptoms, students and staff were tasked with taking the tests — there are two in each kit — on Sunday, Feb. 6, and Friday, Feb. 11. They were given similar recommendations when receiving the first round of test kits (provided by the state) on Jan. 14 and the second round (acquired by SPUSD) on Jan. 24. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms was instructed to take tests after they began presenting.
Mandatory weekly PCR testing will continue for the district’s active in-season athletes, and optional PCR testing remains available for everyone else. Additionally, the federal government in January made available four free tests to be mailed to residences upon registration.
The urgency for mass testing rose in December and continued through January as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus struck Southern California, repeatedly demolishing daily new case records that remained north of 40,000 confirmed cases a day at its height. L.A. County Department of Public Health officials are signaling guarded optimism that the wave is receding, with the average daily case rate for the week ending on Sunday, Jan. 31, dropping to 18,617; that number was more than 29,000 the week prior.
Since Sunday, confirmed new cases have been 10,715 on Monday, 8,786 on Tuesday and 15,664 on Wednesday. Hospitalizations, which lag daily new case spikes, are also now falling. However, deaths, which lag hospitalizations, remain gradually increasing, according to the county.
In South Pasadena, there have been 3,708 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March 2020, of which 1,920 have been diagnosed since Dec. 1. In other words, nearly 52% of the city’s entire caseload has accumulated in the past two months. The city has experienced four deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the year, bringing its total to 53.
Corresponding with the Omicron wave — which is driven by a substantially more infectious variant but is, thus far, less lethal than prior forms — SPUSD’s confirmed COVID-19 cases at its schools have also skyrocketed this year. After recording four cases in August, 15 in September, seven in October, 12 in November and 53 in December, there were 282 confirmed cases across all school campuses and maintenance offices in January. (The January counts began on Jan. 10, when classes resumed after winter break.)
Vaccinations, along with boosters, remain the best available defense against COVID-19 by drastically reducing the likelihood of complications that might result in hospitalization or death. In South Pasadena, vaccinations remain among the highest in the county, with 86.9% of the city’s eligible population recorded as being fully vaccinated and 54.5% recorded as receiving a booster.
Broken down, the fully vaccinated includes 81.2% of children ages 5-11, virtually all children ages 12-17 and 92.7% of adults ages 65 and older.
Pfizer this week requested emergency use approval by the Food and Drug Administration for its two-dose vaccine produced in collaboration with BioNTech to be administered in smaller doses to children ages 6 months through 5 years.