Simmering schools dispute not boiling over in Fresno County

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The simmering open school's dispute has not reached a boiling point yet for Fresno County.

The kids are back in school in person at a pair of private schools in Fresno County and the public health department isn't thrilled about it.

A health officer order last week demanded the closure of Immanuel Schools in Reedley. Nothing changed.

Now that Clovis Christian has also started in person instruction, the county hasn't decided on its approach.

"Our team is trying to get good information and trying to deliberate about what the best next steps should be," said Fresno County Interim Health Officer Dr. Rais Vohra.

Public Health Director Dave Pomaville said to expect the county to ask for a court injunction against Immanuel this week, but as of Tuesday evening, the county attorney's office had not filed for one.

But public health officials are emphasizing the dangers of bringing kids on campus.

"Any congregate setting is a setup for transmission," said Dr. Vohra. "And I think whenever schools get reopened we can predictably expect that there's going to be transmission."

Dr. Vohra says the coronavirus spreads easily when groups of people from different households spend hours indoors together.

The state won't let counties with sizable outbreaks bring kids back on campus right now because of the strain on the healthcare system.

Fresno County had a dwindling population of COVID patients in hospitals over the last couple weeks, but 275 confirmed and suspected patients are taking up beds as of Tuesday.

Hospitals have been in surge protocols for weeks and on Tuesday, they combined to have just 11 available ICU beds.

Dr. Vohra says he knows school administrators have their hearts in the right place, but violating the state order isn't helping get the county where it needs to be to reopen schools and businesses.

"As a parent and a community member, I think the best thing that all of us can do is to help kind of get on the same page about getting off that monitoring list so we can then consider reopening our schools and getting kids back in school," he said.

Dr. Vohra says schools should still come up with plans for reopening as safely as possible so they're ready as soon as the county gets off the state watch list.
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