Opening Israeli schools will not cause serious COVID cases to spike – HU

Science and Health
With less than a week until the opening of Israel’s schools, parents and teachers received a positive forecast on Friday: The opening of the school year is unlikely to increase the pace of serious COVID-19 infections, as long as the rate of vaccination continues.
This is according to a team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who have been advising the coronavirus cabinet and the government throughout the pandemic. They said that the third shot of the Pfizer vaccine and the recently instituted expanded Green Pass program are stopping serious infection in general.
The predictions mirrored statements made Saturday night by Health Ministry Director-General Prof. Nachman Ash, who said in an interview with N12’s Meet the Press that he also believes the school year should open on time and that the encouraging trends Israel is seeing will continue this week as well – a direct result of the booster campaign.

So far, 1.9 million Israelis have received a third shot of the vaccine. The Health Ministry said its goal is to reach three million within the next two or three weeks. The ministry’s Advisory Committee for the Corona Vaccines will vote soon on expanding the third shot to everyone. Currently, the booster is available for people over the age of 30.
The Hebrew University researchers also expect that the rate of infection will begin to decrease alongside the serious cases.
On Saturday night, the Health Ministry said it diagnosed 8,482 people with the virus on Friday. Some 6.65% of people screened had a positive result. 
The number of serious cases has started to stabilize in recent days, holding at 703 on Saturday night, including 153 who were ventilated.
 PEOPLE IN THE 50+ age group receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit Health Care Center in Katzrin on Monday. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90) PEOPLE IN THE 50+ age group receive a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit Health Care Center in Katzrin on Monday. (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)
Health Ministry officials have said they expect the number to start to decline even more, hitting around 500 serious patients in mid-September. However, the number of serious cases among unvaccinated people over the age of 60 will continue to be a challenge, the Hebrew University team said. According to their report, unvaccinated individuals over the age of 60 are five times more likely to develop a serious infection than vaccinated individuals. Additionally, because unvaccinated people are hospitalized longer than vaccinated ones, they are expected to soon become the majority of people being treated in the country’s hospitals.
They also said that the mortality rate is expected to stabilize and be dominated by unvaccinated people.
Nearly 7,000 Israelis have died from the virus.
The reproduction rate, or “R,” currently stands at 1.11 but is expected to drop to less than 1 within a week, Ash said, and substantially by mid-September to 0.85, according to the Hebrew University researchers. As such, even if infection slightly increases due to the opening of schools, the rate of daily cases will continue to decline.
There has also been a decrease in infection rates among young children, ages six to 11 – more good news before the start of the school year. Nonetheless, the Hebrew University researchers stressed that there will be obstacles to continuing with routine as thousands of people are expected to enter quarantine as a result of the opening of schools.
So far, there are around 120 “red areas” in Israel, in which students in grades 8-12 will be forced to learn online unless at least 70% of their classmates are vaccinated. Only 30% of students ages 12-15 are fully vaccinated, and 69% of those 16-19. The rates are especially low among the Arab population.
Recall that parents are also being asked to screen their children with home COVID tests before the start of the school year to help prevent infected children from entering their classrooms.
The coronavirus cabinet is expected to meet early this week to discuss pushing for stronger restrictions on gathering, reducing the number of people allowed to congregate in closed spaces to 400 and in open spaces to 500 in all circumstances.
Ash told N12 that additional restrictions could help the rate of infection continue to decline.