schools

Coronavirus sample, via Riverside County Public Health

As of the morning of April 1, there were 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Pass area: nine in Beaumont and four in Banning.

One case had been reported in Cherry Valley.

No cases had been reported yet in Cabazon.

The county’s public health map had previously reported one death in Beaumont, which was reflected in a March 27 news release from the city.

Inmates at the Larry D. Correctional Facility in Banning have been corresponding with the Record Gazette to claim that one of their fellow inmates has coronavirus, but declined to go on record.

Sheriff Chad Bianco reported on March 28 that that three deputies and one inmate had been tested positive for coronavirus, but declined to say which of the five jails under his jurisdiction is the site he was referring to.

The sheriff’s public information officer Deputy Robyn Flores told the Record Gazette in an e-mail “We are not releasing the facility name of personnel or inmates that have tested positive for COVID-19,” explaining that “Releasing the information can compromise personnel and inmate safety” and violate HIPPA law.

In a March 28 statement after the first case in Banning was posted to the Riverside University Health System’s website, City Manager Doug Schulze said “Our first confirmed COVID-19 case in Banning does not come as a surprise. Clearly the number of people that have become infected continues to grow each day. It is imperative that every individual understand and follow the recommendations to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus,” repeating health officials’ insistence on washing hands thoroughly, avoiding touching one’s face, coughing and sneezing into a tissue, and staying at home if one is feeling sick.

The city of Beaumont’s statement declared “The number of confirmed cases shall serve as a further warning for residents to stay at home and do their part to flatten the curve by following the Governor’s Safer at Home order.”

In an interview with EdSource State Superintendent of Instruction Tony Thurmond stressed a directive that he believed schools should remain closed until the end of the school year.

By noon the next day on Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom had declared that schools will not reopen before the end of the academic year.

Beaumont Superintendent of Schools Terence Davis said in an interview “This is a health crisis, not an education crisis.”

Addressing Thurmond’s desire to have schools move to distance learning via online means is something Beaumont has been striving towards, but developing that infrastructure will not happen overnight, and the district is still assessing how many students and teachers have the proper accessibility and Internet access.

“Asking an organization to change its paradigm takes time, and needs to be equitable to all students, or it can open the door to an achievement gap and a monumental divide between those who have or don’t have access, which saddens my heart,” Davis said.

Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at dheiss@recordgazette.net , or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.

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