Burbank students returned to school this week following a winter break riddled with COVID-19 transmission and other respiratory illnesses, according to recent data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Public health experts advised that this increase is likely driven in part by the rise of a new COVID-19 strain, JN.1. The new variant has gained dominance rapidly in L.A. County and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data predicts JN.1 accounts for 61% of cases in the region in the past two weeks.
The Burbank Unified School District has followed county recommendations closely, maintaining that vaccinations are recommended for Burbank students; however, it is unlikely vaccination or masking requirements will be levied unless mandated by county health officials. The district will follow new recommendations that came down from the LACDPH this month, which adjusted isolation guidelines for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
Under the new instructions, individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms can leave isolation once they are fever free for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medication and other symptoms are mild and improving, provided they wear a well-fitting high-quality mask when around others for 10 days following symptom onset.
Those who have no symptoms are not required to isolate provided they wear a well-fitting, high-quality respiratory mask whenever they are around other people for 10 days following their positive test result. It remains strongly recommended that an individual test for COVID-19 prior to ending isolation and extend isolation until day 10 if they continue to test positive.
According to the CDPH, all individuals who test positive need to wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask for a total of 10 days after their symptoms began or, if they do not have symptoms, the date of their initial positive test, whenever they are around others. This includes individuals who test positive and have no symptoms or only mild symptoms.
BUSD COVID-19 policy is guided by the county department of health, which has not issued such directives since early 2022, despite routine seasonal outbreaks.
The district has access to readily available COVID-19 testing kits and masks available to students and faculty.
As of this week, there have been 34,036 total COVID-19 cases in Burbank, according to the LACDPH.
The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reached three-month highs in recent weeks. Public health data shows the virus is widely circulating in the county, with wastewater concentrations of the virus at 60% of last year’s winter peak, up from 49% the week prior.
COVID-19 hospitalizations also remain elevated, with an average of 806 patients checked-in per day for the week ending Jan. 6, an increase from 784 the week prior. L.A. County’s COVID-19 hospital admission level, as defined by the CDC, remains in “medium” for the second consecutive week at 11.2 new COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people for data through Dec. 30.
With respiratory virus transmission and hospitalizations remaining elevated in the county, health officials this week asked residents to help limit exposures and take common sense precautions.
Flu activity also remains elevated in L.A. County. There was an average of 425 influenza-positive patients in the hospital per day for the week ending Dec. 30. For the week ending Dec. 30, 18.3% of specimens tested for influenza at sentinel surveillance laboratories were positive, a slight decline from the previous week yet still nearly double the levels seen four weeks ago. Although the decline in the most recent week is an encouraging sign, it is still too soon to tell if flu activity has peaked for this season, experts said.
With respiratory viruses expected to remain in circulation for weeks to come, it’s not too late to get the updated COVID-19 and flu vaccines, officials stated. Both vaccines remain effective at reducing severe illness and are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Find a vaccination site at myturn.ca.gov.
Free at-home COVID-19 tests are readily available throughout L.A. County, from libraries, community-based organizations, food banks and senior centers. They also are available through the federal government by mail and at retail pharmacies with a California health insurance plan. To find a free COVID-19 test, visit ph.lacounty.gov/COVIDtests.
The county department of public health continues to offer many free resources, such as vaccines, tests and treatment, to reduce the impact of COVID-19 in L.A. County, regardless of a person’s insurance or immigration status. Department staff is available to answer questions about COVID-19 and help residents access community resources through the Public Health InfoLine at (833) 540-0473, seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
First published in the January 13 print issue of the Burbank Leader.