Snohomish Health District recommends county’s schools prepare for remote learning this fall

Dr. Chris Spitters

Given the “continued upward trajectory”of COVID-19 cases in the county, Snohomish County Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters on Wednesday recommended that Snohomish County public school superintendents and private school administrators plan for distance learning this fall.

A health district announcement noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released updated guidance for K-12 administrators to aid in preparing for the upcoming school year. Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) also issued a district planning guide for reopening schools. These recommendations, as well as a recent statement from State Superintendent Chris Reykdal, all point to the need for local schools and local public health officials to work together to make local decisions, the health district said.

The level of COVID-19 transmission in the community is one of a number of factors considered when making decisions for the coming year, the health district said. While school-age children are not typically a high-risk population for this illness, there are many staff and some students who are particularly vulnerable to severe illness due to COVID-19 because of age or underlying medical conditions. It also is important to remember that even otherwise healthy staff and students can have serious and long-lasting complications from a COVID-19 infection, and that transmission in schools may amplify transmission in the community, the district said.

Recent case investigations in Snohomish County have seen one confirmed case quickly spread through a business or an entire household, the announcement said. When considering resuming in-classroom school in the midst of high community transmission, the goal is to reduce the chances of a student or staff member spreading the disease to friends, family members, neighbors, or others who are more vulnerable.

The continued upward trajectory of COVID-19 cases in Snohomish County is concerning, the health district said. The county’s case rates have continued to climb for more than a month and the rate is now at nearly 100 cases per 100,000 population. This is close to the rate Snohomish County experienced in March when schools first closed.

“Taking all of this into consideration, I have concluded that reopening schools for in-person classes at this time poses a substantial risk to the school and the surrounding community — especially its medically vulnerable members,” Spitters said. “We know that fall is quickly approaching, and plans need to be finalized on how schools will start the academic year. By making this recommendation now, I hope that provides our schools and their staff and families with as much time as possible to prepare for online learning.”

The ability to safely resume in-person instruction in schools is directly linked to the actions of the community. The health district reminds residents of the following steps necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 and create an environment that allows for schools to reopen for on-site learning. These include:

  • Wearing a face cover in public
  • Maintaining at least 6 feet of distance from non-household members
  • Avoiding gatherings larger than five people from outside of your household, and keeping your social group consistent
  • Staying home and getting tested if you are feeling ill

The health district added that the COVID-19 pandemic is fluid and continually evolving, and said it would continue to work with local schools in the coming weeks and months.


3 Replies to “Snohomish Health District recommends county’s schools prepare for remote learning this fall”

  1. Please show the science that says infection rates in the general public transfer to the school setting, if it is there why is it not being quoted by the experts.

    I will say it yet again, we are attempting to re-invent the wheel. Look at the open schools that faced the exact same concerns we are looking at, see what they did and the outcomes.

    Teachers are far more likely to catch Covid outside the classroom than in it, someone please point me to any study that shows teachers getting Covid from students. There was a UK study recently completed that went through all the reports of cases and could not verify a single one.

    Kids do a FAR worse job of social distancing out on their own. Students and staff with underlining health issues should distance learn, not the entire population.

    Frankly we are doing a subpar job of distance learning, in Seattle 30% of students did not log in a single time yet were given A’s for the year. In Edmonds I saw a report that said a minimum 15% of students are failing to comply. Who do we think is being the most affected by this, want to guess it is NOT wealthy white kids?

    All the data says students and staff will be safer the hours they are at school than the hours they are not at school. Instead we are listening to “people of science” play the what if and maybe game. Go to distance learning this Fall and there are going to be students a full year behind grade level as an outcome. Come December we will be hearing “better safe than sorry” and “we need more money to catch up.”


  2. AA, go to JAMA and look at some of their studies. Some interesting new information about schools, and their role in the transmission of CV.

    Data and actions from data should have some basis in science. But this whole thing since the get go has been a very steep learning curve, and data has been “messy” at first. Now we are putting the puzzle together.

    Often when we talk about “science” we should also include all the science we can muster first with and eye on all the issues we are trying to solve as a community, (includes Mt Lake Terrace) county, state and nation, and finally the planet.

    These are among the disciplines that should and were included: Medical, Economic, Social Sciences, and Political Science. PS has and will continue to play a huge role in all this. Example would be at the outset we saw hospitals becoming overwhelmed the patients and the thought at the outset was not enough ventilators and ICU beds. No politician could chart a course that would have people dying on a cot at a vacant sports facility.

    Some have suggested we are already at herd level immunity. If so, why are new folks needing to go to the hospital? While we may be closer to herd immunity, the new cases do not suggest that to be true.

    If we are to delay school openings, we must craft ways to get kids the education they deserve. That may mean some new creative ways will have to be considered. We have to find ways to get our 1m kids up to speed with the complex world we find ourselves in today.

    I am curious to know if others are willing to create fresh ideas or just condemn others? Let create some ideas!


    1. Darrol, ugh… thanks for that 5 hour hole in my day 🙂

      There were a lot of articles on big negative impacts of not reopening, and the 22 counties in Europe that have opened without an uptick in cases, don’t have space with the word limit to go over them.

      There was an interesting article on estimated excess deaths showing that 35% of them are likely caused by the shutdown and not Covid.

      The article that said a lot of lives were saved by the school closures and more in areas that schools were closed sooner was fun to plow through the technical jargon and keep straight until the end. From what I understand it comes down to kids and teachers not being saved but parents had to stay home with their kids and could not go out and get/spread the virus and this saved lives. It unfortunately has four paragraphs of limitations and used the same estimated linear modeling that was so wrong with many of the early studies and their own conclusion…

      Between March 9, 2020, and May 7, 2020, school closure in the US was temporally associated with decreased COVID-19 incidence and mortality; states that closed schools earlier, when cumulative incidence of COVID-19 was low, had the largest relative reduction in incidence and mortality. However, it remains possible that some of the reduction may have been related to other concurrent nonpharmaceutical interventions.

      …makes it hard to know how much weight to give it. It also does not deal with why numbers went up in June while schools were still closed and these parents were still supposedly limited in their movement.

      A few references to the Israel and Japan hotspot cases but only the first look, no follow ups. Tomorrow I’ll try to find any final conclusions.


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