Dept. of Health: Safety protocols kept COVID transmission low in Washington schools

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Longfellow Elementary classroom
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OLYMPIA, Wash. — In-school transmission of COVID-19 was low across Washington during the 2020-2021 school year. 

In a briefing Thursday, Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah said Washington schools saw students contract COVID, but the majority of those cases came from transmission outside of class. 

Heading into the new school year, Shah said the DOH knows they will see students contract the virus, but layered safety measures — like vaccines, masks, ventilation and testing — will help mitigate risk.

READ: Washington to require all K-12 students, school employees to wear masks this fall

“Last year, we learned that when students, staff, and visitors follow the health and safety requirements at school, virus spread is minimal,” said Deputy Superintendent Dr. Michaela W. Miller. “If we continue to follow the requirements and virus transmission stays low, our school buildings can continue to stay open for full-time, in-person learning, which we know is the best learning environment for the majority of students.” 

During this past school year, Spokane Public Schools saw only 12 in-school transmission cases. 

The DOH said it will be increasingly important for families to protect their children when they are not in school. Shah said vaccinating all eligible family members is a must and that it is important to limit travel and visits to crowded events. 

Gatherings and playdates should be kept small and outdoors, and families should wear masks when around people from outside of their household. 

As of Aug. 30, 41 percent of Washington children ages 12 to 15 were fully vaccinated. Just under 50 percent of kids 16 to 17 are fully vaccinated. 

“We still have work to do,” Shah said. 

All children ages 12 and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine. Information on how to book an appointment can be found here.

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