COVID-19 case rates continue to rise locally in a surge that has extended since mid-April, but nearly all agencies other than local health-care facilities continue to stick to their “masks recommended” policy.
The Mountain View Whisman School District readopted masking among its schools, but the Los Altos School District, Bullis Charter School and local high schools did not.
“I know there are a lot of reasons why both (reinstating and not reinstating the mask mandate) are difficult, and we’re going through each of those reasons right now,” said Mountain View Los Altos High School District Superintendent Nellie Meyer at a board meeting last week.
The current volume of COVID infection in the community remains lower than during the January omicron surge, when test positivity jumped to 17% and as many as 6,000 new positive cases were identified each day via PCR tests. As of last week, positive tests averaged approximately 7.5% and new infections hovered closer to 1,200 per day as reported by Santa Clara County’s labs. Those figures do not include positive results from at-home rapid testing.
Individuals have been left to decide how and if to return to earlier pandemic protocols. Students at local schools report a mix of masked and unmasked students, and the same can be seen in local businesses and gyms.
Erin Paruszewski, owner of the Alkalign gym on First Street, said more people are wearing masks than a few weeks ago (all clients are required to be vaccinated). She said she does not “want to mandate anything else at this point unless it is absolutely necessary,” a sentiment similar to what local school and health authorities have laid out this spring, asking individuals to be proactive against the virus but ultimately leaving some choice to each person.
“We have a very responsible and respectful clientele, and I trust that everyone will do what they feel is best. I personally am choosing to wear a mask, as do our other instructors,” Paruszewki said.
When COVID booster access opened to children ages 5 and older last week, the scramble to book a shot looked quite different than in the early days of vaccination efforts – local parents found lots of appointments available, though the county’s only local mass vaccination and testing site was scheduled to give its last shots May 28. Santa Clara County had been scheduled to close its COVID operation at the Mountain View Community Center on Rengstorff Avenue earlier that week, but remained open a few extra days in response to demand for the youth booster shots.
Parents of the region’s youngest children have another date on which to pin their hopes after months of setbacks. Drug-makers recently submitted new data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration showing that vaccines formulated at a low dose for very young children were safe, well tolerated and effective in preventing severe illness.
Pfizer-BioNTech, which withdrew an application earlier this year after finding that a two-dose vaccine course did not show adequate efficacy, has completed trials of a three-dose vaccine course that showed 80% efficacy in preventing symptomatic infection with the omicron variant. They have developed a 3-microgram dosage, one-tenth the dose used in adults.
Moderna, which had not until now applied for emergency-use approval for any vaccines for children under 13, has submitted data for children ages 6 months through 12. For those under five, it tested a two-dose course of a 25-microgram vaccine (adults receive 100 micrograms in initial dosages, less in boosters). The trial in very young children demonstrated approximately 40% efficacy in preventing mild symptomatic disease under the omicron variant and strong performance in preventing severe disease, similar to the performance of its adult vaccines.
The FDA’s vaccine advisory committee is scheduled to meet June 15 to consider requests from both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech for emergency-use authorization for children ages 6 months through 5 years.