Los Angeles Catholic schools get more COVID tests and better masks

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The large spike in COVID-19 cases caused by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the virus has led some Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to delay the return to in-person classes.

As of Jan. 14, at least 72% of district Catholic schools had resumed in-person instruction after the winter break, according to the Department of Catholic Schools (DCS). The others had either delayed reopening classrooms or opted for a hybrid schedule due to quarantine protocols for sick or exposed students.

DCS worked with health officials in the three counties that make up the Archdiocese’s territory — Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara — to provide “rapid” PCR and COVID-19 testing to Catholic schools. The district was also to distribute more than 200,000 N-95 masks free of charge to secure students and staff at the LA County Office of Education.

“We recognize the challenges facing many of our elementary schools,” returning to in-person classes amid the surge, DCS Superintendent Paul Escala told Angelus. “It’s great to see our faculty and frontline school staff coming together to help our students get back to learning after the break.”

Escala said N-95s, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says provide the best protection against COVID-19, were first sent to five Catholic high schools in each of the five pastoral regions of the Archdiocese. From there, they will be distributed to schools in their respective regions the week of January 18.

The spread of the Omicron variant led to all-time highs in daily records of the number of cases in Southern California, but fewer hospitalizations and deaths. Evidence suggests the new variant spreads faster than previous versions of the virus, but tends to cause less serious illness.

A statewide mandate requiring face coverings indoors, including in churches, will be in effect in California until at least February 15.

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