Two students wearing face masks at All Saints’ Day School work independently as one student studies behind a plexiglass screen in Carmel, Calif., on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020.

(CALMATTERS NETOWRK) – Two reports released Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscored the importance of masking, physical distancing and COVID-19 testing in California schools — especially when it comes to protecting kids who are too young to be vaccinated. One report found that students who attended Los Angeles County schools in person from September to March tested positive for COVID-19 at dramatically lower rates than children in the county overall, suggesting the schools’ strict safety protocols helped reduce transmission. The other report — which made quite a few headlines — found that an infected, unvaccinated Marin County elementary school teacher in May spread COVID-19 to 26 students and their contacts after lowering her mask to read aloud. All of the 18 samples that were genetically sequenced involved the delta variant.

 “The mask was off only momentarily, not an entire day or hours. We want to make the point that this is not the teacher’s fault — everyone lets their guard down — but the thing is delta takes advantage of slippage from any kind of protective measures.”

Tracy Lam-Hine, a Marin County epidemiologist

The studies come amid a swirl of concerning statistics: California on Saturday had 1,601 ICU beds available, less than the 1,700 open when Newsom in December announced a regional stay-at-home order tied to ICU capacity. Cases are skyrocketing among the unvaccinated in rural Northern California, prompting Del Norte and Trinity counties — which have one and zero ICU beds available, respectively — to reinstate indoor mask mandates. So many COVID and non-COVID patients are seeking care at San Diego hospitals that facilities are postponing surgeries due to a lack of space and a burned-out workforce. Meanwhile, wait times for COVID test results are increasing statewide, hampering officials’ ability to track the spread of the virus.