Starting Monday, some Riverside County schools in the midst of offering students virtual instruction can apply to again hold in-person classes, which remains prohibited for schools in counties on the state's coronavirus monitoring list.
Both public and private schools serving kindergarten through sixth grade students can apply for waivers, which must include plans for reopening, including information on cleanliness and other methods of curbing the spread of COVID-19, according to the Riverside University Health System.
The state's threshold for schools to apply for the waivers is 200 cases for every 100,000 residents, county officials said. Riverside County is currently at 167 cases per 100,000 residents, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
“The biggest predictor of school spread is community spread, and although we're still finding new cases of COVID-19, our case rate has dropped enough where we can consider elementary school waivers,” Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the county's health officer, said.
“However, the waiver process won't be a rubber stamp, and elementary schools will be required to publicly demonstrate they have the pieces in place to operate safely or they won't be approved. We want exposures to be rare and, should an exposure occur, for the school to show they can handle it without putting others at risk,” he added.
Gov. Gavin Newsom last month ordered all school campuses to remain closed when the academic year began in counties on the state's monitoring list due to spiking coronavirus cases -- including Riverside County.
As of Saturday, 38 of the state's 58 counties remained on the state's coronavirus monitoring list, which still includes Riverside County, according to state public health data.
Each county must be off the watch list for 14 days before schools and school districts may be allowed to reopen without a waiver.
As of Friday, there were 49,482 confirmed coronavirus cases and 927 COVID-19 deaths in Riverside County, which boasts the second highest confirmed case count and death toll in California, second only to Los Angeles County.