6 December 2021
The latest updates on COVID-19, testing, and vaccines curated for L2R school districts.

New Variant of Concern

Omicron Update

Health authorities have been working to understand the potential threat of the omicron variant since it was first detected in South Africa in late November.

Here’s what to know:

  • The WHO classified omicron as a variant of concern on November 26. Of the many variants identified thus far, only five have been classified as variants of concern: alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and omicron.
  • Omicron has a high number of unique mutations that may make it more transmissible than previous variants.
  • As of Monday, December 6, three confirmed cases of omicron have been identified in Washington state.
  • Definitive information on transmissibility, severity, and vaccine effectiveness is forthcoming, but health authorities continue to stress the importance of vaccinations in preventing severe illness.
  • The delta variant continues to be dominant in Washington, and it’s important to continue doing all the things we know work, especially getting fully vaccinated.

“We knew that it was a matter of time before omicron was sequenced in our state. We strongly urge people to get vaccinated and get their boosters as soon as possible to maximize their level of protection from any variant.”

Dr. Umair A. Shah, Washington State Secretary of Health

    Learn to Return is staying up to date on this issue and will have more information in future editions. In the meantime, getting vaccinated is still the best thing you can do to protect yourself from COVID-19.

    L2R is ready to help you launch vaccination events for your school district and develop a communications plan for these events. Reach out to us today to get started.

    Learn more about the pediatric vaccine authorized for children ages 5 to 11 on our Vaccine FAQs page.

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    Support to Schools

    L2R Impact Fund!
    Health Commons Project has launched the L2R Impact Fund to support innovative ideas that increase equitable engagement in K-12 COVID-19 services. Schools, community-based organizations (CBOs), local health jurisdictions (LHJs), and partnerships including one or more of these entities are eligible to apply.

    Interested applicants must operate in Washington state and be able to use the funding before the end of June 2022. Partnerships with CBOs are encouraged.

    Complete this brief form to request more information about this exciting opportunity.

    L2R Impact Fund Informational Meeting

    Join us for an Informational Meeting and Question and Answer session to learn more about the L2R Impact Fund. The application will be available immediately following the meeting.

    Topic: Learn to Return Impact Fund Informational Meeting

    Time: Dec 9, 2021 09:30 AM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

    CICT support from the Department of Health
    Schools have taken on the burden of case investigation and contact tracing (CICT) in the wake of the Delta wave to help keep schools open and students safe. The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) is offering support in three key areas to help alleviate this burden:

    • Process assessment & consultation
    • Contact identification
    • Contact notification

    Learn more about this program and how to request support by downloading the DOH support process document.

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    Washington trends
    COVID-19 Cases in Children and Youth
    Here are the key findings from the DOH report on cases among children and youth (ages 0-19) in Washington state from November 7 to November 21, 2021:

    • There were 5,960 total cases in this period (316.1 cases per 100,000 population)
    • Case rates are continuing to decline
    • The highest case rates were in ESD 113 in western Washington
    • The highest case rates were among 4-10 year-olds (377.2 cases per 100,000 population)

    Download the full report.

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    Resources for schools
    The Rockefeller Foundation Learning Network
    The Rockefeller Foundation along with the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conduct a virtual weekly learning network for school and district leaders.

    The eight-week series began last month and has addressed topics like growing a testing program, designing a program in the context of vaccination, and parental buy-in.

    This week’s session on December 7 & 8 will focus on Test to Stay and Close Contact Tracing. This event is a forum to ask questions, hear directly from other school leaders around the country who have done this work, and engage some of our nation’s top experts on technical issues.

    To accommodate schedules, there are two sessions held each week to discuss the same topic: Tuesdays: 5 – 6 p.m. EST, and Wednesdays: 4 – 5 p.m. EST. All are welcome to attend either or both sessions. Learn more and register here: https://www.openandsafeschools.org/learning-network

    Past event recordings and materials are available here.

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    Omicron News

    Find out more about the new variant

    Why some researchers think the omicron variant could be the most infectious one yet

    NPR – November 30, 2021

    • “Everyone is afraid that omicron will be significantly more transmissible than delta. Upon first impression, it looks like it could be,” he says. “But that could be totally wrong. Right now, nobody knows. The problem is that our data is very limited.”


    Omicron: What we know - and don't know - about the new COVID-19 variant

    CBS News – December 1, 2021

    The vaccines currently used in the U.S. were designed to target the early strains of the virus, though health officials have said the shots could eventually be changed — like the annual flu shot — to respond to new variants.


    Report explores how public policies failed Black, Latino Chicagoans during COVID-19

    UIC Today – December 1, 2021

    • Extended networks of support amongst Black and Latinx Chicagoans worked to fill gaps in state support. Residents built on long traditions of organizing among themselves to support vulnerable neighbors and sometimes built new organizations to meet new needs


    In the Fight Against Omicron, Scientists See Glimmers of Hope

    Wall Steet Journal – December 1, 2021

    • Glimmers of hope emerged that a key weapon in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic would still be effective against the new Omicron variant, as scientists and health authorities world-wide piece together fragmented evidence about the small number of Omicron cases so far identified.


    Omicron’s Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios

    The Atlantic – December 1, 2021

    • One possible downside to a super-contagious (or immune-evading), super-mild Omicron would be that those who catch it won’t end up with much protection afterward.


    Washington state virologists hunt specimens for omicron variant, confident they can spot it

    Seattle Times – November 30, 2021

    • We set this genotyping system up in Washington state well over a year ago, anticipating exactly what’s unfolding right now, that there’d be an emergence of new variants.


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    The Gang Talks Testing!