Omicron variant outbreak reported at West Sacramento high school

Local News

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — A suspected omicron outbreak at a West Sacramento high school has school and health officials working to get a handle on the new COVID-19 cases just days before winter break.

It began when two River City High School students started showing symptoms last weekend. Their tests came back positive not just for COVID-19 but also for the omicron variant.

“Latest person to test positive was yesterday, so there appears to be ongoing transmission and exposure at the school,” explained Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson on Thursday.

Yolo County Public Information Officer John Fout said at least five students have tested positive for the coronavirus and four of them are in the same class. The fifth positive case is in a different class but is a family member living in the same home as one of the other students.

A sixth case was reported in another family member of one of the students.

“The Yolo County Health Department calls this situation an outbreak since there are more than three cases in one classroom but does not advise that the district close the school at this time,” wrote River City Principal Brittony Billingslea in a letter sent to students and staff.

Officials are presuming all cases are omicron and that the number of cases will rise. 

“It’s consistent with what we’re hearing about the omicron variant, which is that it is more contagious than any form of coronavirus than we’ve seen before,” Sisson said.

However, so far, experts say it also seems to cause less serious illness than other variants. 

Exactly one week ago, public health officials identified the first person known to have the omicron variant in Yolo County, but that person had recently traveled. None of the cases reported from the high school are linked to travel.

“Because each of those students in that classroom also rotates to five or six other classrooms throughout the day, there is the potential for a lot more people to be exposed,” Sisson told FOX40.

Everyone in the class where the four students tested positive has been encouraged to be tested and the unvaccinated students in that class are required to quarantine. 

Two of the teens in the outbreak were fully vaccinated but did not have booster shots. 

News of the outbreak was concerning for some River City High School students in more ways than one.

“Some kids are just feeling nervous and just unsafe because we’re in finals right now. We’re in one classroom for two hours,” said 11th grader Liliana Lopez.

Lopez said she is currently considering getting a booster vaccine. She said she thinks overall, the campus community does a good job in preventing COVID-19 spread.  

“Everyone has a mask on, distancing could be better,” she said.

Still, Lopez said she’s grateful for the upcoming winter break.

“Personally, I feel safer now that it’s just today and tomorrow, and they made them shorter days,” she told FOX40.

Fout said River City High School is ramping up COVID-19 testing at the school and sending students and staff home with testing kits during winter break.

“I think we will be learning from this outbreak and additional outbreaks, and figuring out if there are any implications of this moving forward for our schools when we resume in January,” Sisson said. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said there are no plans to shut down schools and businesses now that the omicron variant has been detected in the state.

“The best thing we can all do is continue to be cautious while using multiple layers of protection, and we strongly recommend that everyone in our schools and community take advantage of the daily testing clinics available through WUSD to guard against future transmission,” said Washington Unified School District Superintendent Cheryl Hildreth.

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