FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 16, 2021
Media Contacts: Jennifer Moon, Public Information Officer
Whatcom County Health Department
Statement on COVID-19 Prevention and Safety as School Year Begins
BELLINGHAM, WA -- Now that students have returned to classrooms across Whatcom County, the Washington State Department of Health and Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction have identified two goals:
- Minimize transmission of COVID-19 among students and staff in K-12 schools and to their families and the broader community.
- Maximize in-person instruction.
Students are returning to the classroom this fall at the direction of Governor Inslee, the Secretary of Health and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Following recommendations and guidelines from the CDC, these agencies have determined that all students will have the opportunity to attend school in-person full time (five days per week) in the 2021–22 school year. Following this guidance, school districts do not currently have the option to provide solely hybrid or remote learning.
Over the past two years, school closures have disrupted learning, families and employment. Students missed out on many of the benefits that come from being in the classroom with peers and teachers, including easy access to meals, technology, physical activity, counselors and other supportive services. With kids schooled remotely, parents who worked from home had to juggle work responsibilities and child-rearing, while others had to find childcare to fill in the void that schools once filled.
Whatcom County continues to be designated as an area of high transmission by the CDC. Given the high case rates in the community and the contagious nature of the Delta variant, we expect to see some COVID-19 cases within schools. The degree of transmission within schools will depend in part upon the degree of adherence to multiple prevention steps that are known from research and experience to limit infection and safely enable in-person learning. Those steps include:
- Required vaccination of school staff and recommended vaccination of students over the age of 12.
- Universal mask or face covering usage.
- Physical distancing to the extent practicable.
- Hand washing.
- Cleaning and disinfection.
- School-based testing.
- Contact tracing, isolation and quarantine.
The Whatcom County Health Department is working closely with schools to limit the spread of COVID-19 in schools. When cases do occur in schools, the Health Department will work with schools to coordinate additional testing resources to detect cases early and contain ongoing transmission. Families can do their part by staying home and getting tested when symptoms develop, consistently wearing well-fitting masks and getting those family members who are eligible vaccinated to help keep students safe and in the classroom.
This information is also available as a PDF.