SoCal COVID Waning; New CA Bill Introduced to Allow Schools to See Who’s Vaccinated

SoCal COVID Waning; New CA Bill Introduced to Allow Schools to See Who’s Vaccinated
A health worker vaccinates a student during a community drive-up clinic in Los Angeles on Aug. 12, 2020. (VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES—As the winter Omicron surge subsides, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health updated the mask compliance requirement for the post-surge period while a new state bill was introduced on Feb. 4 to grant schools access to students' COVID-19 vaccination records.

On Feb. 4, Los Angeles County reported 15,427 new COVID-19 cases and 85 new deaths. For the seven days before Feb. 3, the daily average number of hospitalizations has dropped to 3,233—for the first time below 3,500 in the past few weeks.

The average number of daily new cases reported in the past seven days is approximately 15,600, down from 28,000 the previous week. The daily average positivity rate has also declined to 8 percent.

However, the number of new deaths has remained flat, with dozens of people reportedly losing their lives to COVID every day.

During a media briefing on Feb. 3, Barbara Ferrer, director of the Department of Public Health, said that once hospitalizations drop below 2,500 for seven consecutive days, Los Angeles can be considered as post-surge.

The post-surge masking requirement allows residents to go mask-free outdoors, including outdoor mega-events and outdoor spaces at school and child care facilities. However, masks will still be required for most indoor settings, such as offices, public transits, and health care facilities.

“Mask wearing is a very effective strategy for reducing COVID-19 transmission. Thus, as we move through the short term, masking will continue to be a key part of the post-surge COVID-19 strategy,” Ferrer said.

In Los Angeles, as the number of people testing positive continues to plummet, some residents are pushing for repealing the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for indoor spaces. On Feb. 3, the Los Angeles City Clerk approved a petition for circulation. The petition asks the city council to repeal the requirement of showing vaccination proof before entering certain indoor spaces, such as restaurants and gyms, and outdoor mega-events.

The petition needs approximately 65,000 signatures—15 percent of registered Los Angeles voters—to become effective, according to the city clerk’s office.

In Orange and San Diego counties, data from the past week show the Omicron variant on the wane, according to public health agencies.

On Feb. 4, Orange County’s Health Care Agency reported 2,795 new cases, with 746 existing hospitalizations and 12 new deaths. In San Diego County, 3,736 new infections were reported, with 1,014 existing hospitalizations and 29 new deaths, according to the county's Health and Human Services Agency.

Despite the overall drop, Assemblywoman Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) and San Diego school district leaders announced a new bill on Feb. 4 to give school districts the right to access the state’s immunization registry to see who is vaccinated against COVID-19. Currently, schools already have access to vaccination records for diseases such as measles or mumps, but not COVID-19.

In addition, the bill also requires the vaccine administers to input immunization data into the immunization registry, which has been voluntary and never mandated by law.

“This makes it very easy for the school districts, it makes it easy for the families. So we know who is out there, who has their immunization, who needs their immunization,” Weber said.

Weber's bill came as San Diego Unified School District is appealing a lawsuit against its vaccine mandate.

The lawsuit, filed in October 2021 by parent advocacy group Let Them Choose, argued that only the state, and not the school board, has the power to add a vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for on-campus learning and pointed out that the district doesn't allow for personal belief exemptions as required by state law.

San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer tentatively ruled in the group’s favor on Dec. 20, 2021, and the school district appealed the decision the very next day for the case to be reviewed by an appellate court.

"[The proposed bill] is just kind of another example of the state really getting ahead of themselves and being too sure of themselves and overreaching," Sharon McKeeman of Let Them Choose told CBS8.

If the bill is passed, it can take effect starting next school year.

The bill is supported by Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), who recently introduced the Keep Schools Open and Safe Act, which makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students to attend K–12 schools in person.