Patty Gunderson, Lassen County’s Superintendent of Schools, said there wasn’t much new information to report to the public during a late afternoon interview following the Tuesday, Dec. 8 Lassen County Board of Supervisors meeting.
“We will continue to work together with Dr. (Kenneth) Korver (Lassen County’s Public Health Officer) and the health department to have as many students in school for in-person learning on Jan. 4 as possible. That’s our goal.” Gunderson said.
According to Gunderson, her office continues daily negotiations with Korver, but “I don’t know if we’ll get any movement before the Christmas break because of the surge.”
She said students apparently did not play a role in the recent deaths from COVID-19 in Lassen County.
“We’re going to continue to have daily conversations, and our goal is to have all students whose parents who want their children in school to have in-person learning,” Gunderson said. “I actually appreciated Dr. Korver’s explanation,” to the board of supervisors on Tuesday, “even though it wasn’t what we wanted to hear. He based his decision on what he believed to be sound data, but data can change everyday depending upon who looks at it.”
While Gunderson said she and Korver and many in the community agree students should be in school, the public health officer “makes decisions based on the information he has. I respect those decisions. If we need to modify our daily plans, we’ll modify. We’ll do anything we have to do.”
COVID-19 numbers from the schools
Gunderson shared some statistics regarding how the COVID-19 virus has impacted the county’s schools as of Monday, Dec. 7.
According to Gunderson, countywide there are 152 students and 35 staff members currently on quarantine, including 10 students who tested positive (16 total) cases and 15 staff who tested positive (20 total).
“So we do have numbers,” Gunderson said. “Sixteen out of the whole county is not very many, but while people say it’s not affecting kids, if it’s affecting kids, it’s affecting kids.”
Gunderson also noted the county and the individual school districts are not waiting around to hear from Dr. Korver. She said the schools created their own plans to deal with a possible outbreak based on guidance from local and state health experts.
“We’re following our plans,” Gunderson said, “and we’re doing everything we’ve been told we’re supposed to do. If Dr. Korver recommends we do something different, we can. There were lots of hopes we could be back in school Monday, but at this point I don’t have any indication that Dr. Korver is going to lift that order.”
Tuesday’s supervisor’s meeting
Korver explained the county’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus — including the stoppage of most in-person instruction for local students through Jan. 4— despite concerns and questions from parents, school staff and students at the supervisor’s meeting.
Korver said he felt the schools should be open, especially since children don’t seem to get that sick from the virus, but they do take the virus back to their homes where other family members — especially those at highest risk — may become infected.
“My job is to take care of the county of Lassen, and schools are a part of it, a small part of it and not the full part of it, because they are not the people that get the sickest,” Korver told the supervisors. “But they spread it, which they do, and then we end up with more of these cases, and we can barely handle where we are now … I closed the schools because I hoped to slow it down. It really has not slowed it down, and I’m really kind of at a loss exactly on what to do when the times comes to reopen it. I would love to reopen it, I don’t want to close the schools, but I really cannot have a larger spread in the community.”