LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Los Angeles County’s public health director Tuesday denied that plans for reopening school campuses amid the coronavirus pandemic were politically linked to the upcoming election.
“We need about six weeks of implementation for the school openings that are going to be happening so that we can have a lot of assessment data that will help guide and inform any decisions we make,” Dr. Barbara Ferrer told the Board of Supervisors. “I apologize for any confusion that I may have caused by referencing the elections in early November.”
Ferrer sparked a spate of social media conspiracy theories after she told officials in a conference call last week that schools were unlikely to reopen for in-person learning “until after the election” on Nov. 3.
“We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either tier two or to reopening our K-through-12 schools at least during, at least until after the election, after, you know, in early November,” Ferrer said on the call. “Like, when we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us the more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re going to be where we are now … until we’re done with the election.”
The comments quickly drew online criticism and were used to further speculation that the coronavirus pandemic was being used as a political weapon to harm President Donald Trump’s reelection chances.
But Ferrer has maintained that her reference to the election was only describing a general timeframe of early November in response to a question about the timing of potential additional school openings.
As of Monday, Ferrer said 59 schools had submitted plans to offer in-person instruction for students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have individualized learning plans, who need instruction for English as a second language and who need other specialized in-person services. About half of those schools are expected to begin on-campus operations Monday.
Speaking to the supervisors on Tuesday, Ferrer said gauging how successful those schools are in preventing a growing number of cases would be key in the county’s decision on whether to reopen schools more broadly.
Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who chairs the board, said Tuesday the board’s agenda would include a discussion on public health orders each week.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)