As some schools begin reopening and the holiday season approaches, San Mateo County officials launched coronavirus testing for children Tuesday, serving nearly 400 minor residents with capacity for 500 per day.
“It went terrific. People sailed through, a very easy process, very organized so we encourage people to go out and take advantage of that,” said County Manager Mike Callagy during a remote press briefing.
Families can schedule a self-administered mouth swab test, offered through the Southern California diagnostics firm Curative, from 1 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The tests will be by appointment for San Mateo County-based families and will be of no charge to the public, as with tests provided for adults.
While the county has recorded a small uptick in positive tests among youth, Deputy Chief of Health Srija Srinivasan said pediatric officials do not have “significant concerns” at this point. As of Tuesday, 1,648 residents 19 years old or younger tested positive for the virus, nearly 200 more than reported Sept. 22.
“Overall, kids have not been a highly tested group in the earlier weeks and months of the pandemic and as testing has become more available … we do see the ability to find more cases and at this point we don’t have significant concerns,” said Srinivasan, who encouraged concerned families to seek advice from doctors or to get tested through the county if their child is experiencing symptoms such as coughing, nausea and headaches.
Health officials have not released guidance on how often children should be tested, particularly as children begin to return to school but Callagy said the county is prepared to expand testing for children if demand rises. Chief of Health Louise Rogers said during a Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday that 25 private schools, one charter school and four additional elementary school districts received approval to reopen by Oct. 12.
Still, many school districts in the county have opted to halt reopening plans until 2021 and the county has implored residents to abstain from family-friendly Halloween traditions like trick-or-treating.
“It’s really the accompanying issues associated with trick-or-treating that need to be addressed, the crowds gathering, the personal interaction with the kid and the homeowner and parties and those types of things,” said Callagy. “We want to make sure we don’t slide backwards after Halloween.”
Bay Area health officials put out a joint statement strongly “discouraging” the door-to-door tradition and instead encourage families to opt for safer ways to celebrate the holiday, including scavenger hunts, decorating homes and carving pumpkins.
“We appreciate that families want to find ways to safely celebrate Halloween and bring joy to the household,” said Srinivasan. “We do reinforce the state’s guidance around how to safely celebrate. We want to protect each other. We want to make sure there’s lots of joy and well-being.”
In other business, the compliance task force, developed to ensure businesses comply with state COVID-19 health orders, also launched Monday and began in-person contact with businesses Tuesday. Callagy said the county has received 80 complaints about businesses being in violation so far, ranging from gyms to restaurants but was unsure how many complaints were validated.
Through connecting with business owners and remedying violations, officials hope to maintain steady progress through the state’s color-coded reopening framework. After being in the red, “substantial” risk tier for five weeks, Callagy said he’s optimistic the county is poised to move into the orange tier next Tuesday.
As of Tuesday, more than 191,700 COVID-19 tests had been administered with 10,918 residents testing positive. No new deaths have been reported in a week, leaving total virus-related fatalities at 157 individuals, the majority of which are white residents 80 years old or older. Members of the Latino community still represent over half of all infections as well as young adults in the 20 to 29 age range and 30 to 39 age range.
Hospitalizations have also continued to trend down with 18 confirmed and six suspected patients receiving care, seven in the ICU.
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