San Diego Unified reopening Phase 2 Q&A with district physician Dr. Howard Taras

Dr. Howard Taras, San Diego Unified's district physician, during an online school board meeting
Dr. Howard Taras, physician for the San Diego Unified School District, speaks during a school board meeting in April via Zoom.

Dr. Howard Taras, the San Diego Unified School District’s in-house physician, answers questions about Phase 2 of the district’s campus reopening plans.


Q. What will the district be looking for Oct. 27 in the county COVID-19 coronavirus metrics to determine when Phase 2 will start?

A. We will be hoping that for the next two Tuesdays, the county metrics keep us in the red [tier], not the purple. If we are in the purple, the district would have to apply for a waiver to move to Phase 2. Also, we will be working with the county and with our own records to determine if there were any transmissions that occurred in a school setting. We would add more mitigations or reinforce mitigations if we learn of how transmissions occur in schools (whether ours or others).

A date for the beginning of Phase 2 is expected to be announced Tuesday, Oct. 27, after the next county COVID-19 update.

Oct. 22, 2020

Q. What is the district hoping to do regarding coronavirus testing?

A. The district is hoping to get virus screening tests, at no cost to parents or to staff members, available to all students and staff members. PCR tests or antigen tests each have their own disadvantages and advantages, and we could work with either mode. Ideally the tests would be convenient in location to where students live (their school or a location in their neighborhood).

Q. Will temperature checks be required for all students daily?

A. Yes, we will require parents to check temperatures of their students each day. If at some point this mitigation strategy proves to have very low yield, we would no longer require that.

Q. Will every classroom either have a portable air filter or a MERV 13 filter?

A. Yes, most classrooms will have MERV 13 filters or portable air filters. The only reason I can think of that a classroom would not get one or the other is if that classroom turned out to have measurably excellent ventilation without either.

Q. What safety measures will be used on school buses?

A. Unless students are siblings from the same household, no two students will sit together so that we have distancing. Most windows will need to be opened at least several inches to maximize ventilation. All students will have to wear their masks on the school bus. Finally, “seat maps” will be documented each day, just in case some student was discovered to be tested as positive for this virus — we will want to document who else was on that bus and close to the student, even though they will be wearing masks.

Q: How often do you want coronavirus testing to happen?

A: Frequency of testing will be based on the prevalence of the positives. We have started with every two weeks as a request from the systems, but that could change if circumstances improve or worsen.

Q: What is the thinking on using desk dividers/barriers to stop the virus spread?

A: Barriers have been shown to have benefit and we will use them if ever students are nearer than six feet together, at a minimum.