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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – As Sacramento County experiences the highest COVID-19 case rates since the pandemic started, more than 500 students and staff at Sacramento City Unified School District tested positive for COVID-19 upon return from winter break.

Sacramento County has reported a total of 181,210 cases, according to the public health dashboard.

“We did think that we would see an increase after the holidays, just people traveling, gathering together, plus also the new variant is very contagious,” said Samantha Mott with the Sacramento County Department of Public Health.

Many students and staff within the SCUSD weren’t able to make it back to school as they started the new semester Monday.

“We’ve had over 500 positive cases,” said Victoria Flores, the director of Student Support and Health Services for SCUSD. “The great news is those individuals did not come to school and expose anyone else.”

The district said they were able to do that because they sent as many students and staff home with tests before the break.

“We were able to obtain about 38,000 test kits,” Flores said. “Each kit had two tests in it. We were able to get those out to as many staff and students as we could.”

Even though the number of students and staff testing positive for COVID-19 continues to rise following the holiday break, the district said they do not plan on closing down their campuses.

“We are committed to keeping our schools open and providing that education in person for families that make that choice, as much as we’re able to do safely,” Flores explained.

While lines at testing sites may continue to be long, both the county and the district said there is no shortage in tests even though the county’s public health website says there is a shortage of rapid tests.

“If someone’s looking to get tested with an antigen test at one of our community clinics, or a PCR test, they will be able to do so this week,” Mott said.

Overall, health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated.

SCUSD said they are working with students and families to make sure they have access to assignments if they are recovering from COVID-19.