SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – With the school year underway, Bay Area health officers reaffirmed their support for the resumption of in-person learning amid concerns about rising COVID-19 cases and the Delta variant.

“The lack of in-person learning during the COVID-19 pandemic not only disrupted education, but it also weakened social supports and harmed the mental health of students,” said a joint statement by health officers from all nine Bay Area counties and the City of Berkeley, along with health officers in the Monterey Bay area.

  • Read the full statement here

Officials went on to say, “The risks and benefits of returning to in-person learning are clearer now than any other time during this pandemic – we must all continue to do everything possible to keep kids safely attending their schools.”

The health officers said while cases would appear at schools when virus rates are high, protocols such as universal masking, vaccinations, and proper ventilation can stop the spread of the virus on campuses.

Officials said, “the data shows that these multiple layers of defense can stop the spread of COVID in school settings.”

The officers also noted that while children can get COVID-19, exposure often takes place at home or in social settings where safety protocols vary.

In Alameda County, officials noted that COVID-19 cases among children were occurring at rates lower than among adults and lower than the surge last winter. During the current surge, children accounted for only 3% of hospitalizations to date.

Meanwhile in Contra Costa County, health officials are also seeing children being infected at lower rates compared to adults.

Officials said more than 1 million K-12 students in the region are returning to school for in-person learning in the region. In many communities, students have not been in a classroom since the pandemic forced schools to go online early last year.