Dear Stevenson Families:
I last wrote to provide an update on our pandemic-related plans on December 31. At that time, we announced that a return to campus instruction by January 18—the earliest possible date we foresaw being able to return when we issued our most recent planning document on December 1—seemed unlikely owing to both the rising prevalence of the virus in our area and to evolving state and county guidance. Just over two weeks later, as we approach January 18, I write to share the latest information regarding regional data, state and county guidance, and vaccinations.
As you may recall, California’s new Safe Schools for All framework stipulates that schools located in counties reporting an average daily case rate of more than 25/100K will not be permitted to return to campus instruction. On Tuesday, the weekly update of our county’s metrics revealed that our adjusted case rate is 84.3/100K. Last week, this value was 64.2/100K. Rather than unpacking the magnitude of this increase in epidemiological terms, or reviewing other relevant data categories, suffice it to say that the county’s numbers generally continue to trend in the wrong direction, and many models—including this well-regarded ensemble resource—indicate that they may continue to do so for at least several more weeks.
State and County Guidance
On Wednesday, Governor Newsom announced that the state will add people who are 65 and older to the group scheduled to next receive the vaccine as demand subsides among healthcare workers and long-term care residents. Previously, that age limit had been set at 75 and older—which means that the pool of people in that next tier of priority has now been expanded considerably. He also announced that while the state will lift stay-at-home orders for thirteen northern counties owing to their improving hospital numbers, the San Francisco Bay Area (which includes Monterey County), the San Joaquin Valley, and Southern California must remain under that stay-at-home order.
Yesterday, the state issued a 50-page document with updated reopening guidance for schools which includes new provisions that we will be reviewing over the next several days.
Yesterday afternoon, the Monterey County Health Department held a virtual press conference regarding its efforts to provide vaccinations in accord with the state’s tiered strategy. From that webinar, we learned that: 1) demand continues to exceed supply by a significant margin, 2) the county public health office does not know how much vaccine it will receive in any given week, and 3) there is not yet a clear timeline for providing vaccinations to people in any tier beyond Tier 1a (composed of healthcare workers and long-term care residents). When there is enough vaccine to expand vaccination options, Monterey County will share that information. The School is actively engaged with the county’s public health department and office of education, as well as other relevant public and private organizations, and we will be quick to provide updates as this situation develops.
With this week’s information in hand, we still cannot forecast the date on which we can safely begin our staged return to campus instruction for those families ready and able to participate. We remain optimistic that we will be able to safely welcome students for campus instruction across all three divisions at some point this semester, but as of today it appears that prevailing conditions and guidance will not allow this process to begin in the next thirty days.
Not being able to anticipate the future is deeply frustrating for all of us, and naturally invites uncertainty and anxious speculation that drain us of energy that is better directed at matters subject to our control, like caring for ourselves and our loved ones as best we can, and observing the behavioral pillars that increase our personal safety and the safety of our surrounding communities. Since March, our community’s grit, grace, and generosity of spirit have been sustained by our shared focus in this regard. Though we know some days have been much harder than others, we have remained strong, unified, kind to one another, and values-driven. That is no small achievement, and provides our children with the gift of a good example in hard times that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
We will keep you informed as circumstances warrant, and assure you that our planning for every eventuality continues unabated and on a daily basis, even as we continue to provide the best possible remote academic and social engagement for our students.
Dr. Kevin M. Hicks ‘85 P’29