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Public Schools Report Fewer COVID-19 Cases For Second Week In A Row

Aubri Juhasz
PreK students at KIPP Central City Primary. Oct. 2, 2020.

New Orleans public schools reported a drop in active COVID-19 cases for the second week in a row, according to new data released Monday afternoon.

The district reported 24 new cases of COVID-19 this week, compared to 34 cases the week before. That brings the district’s active case total to 41 — representing 15 students and 26 staff — compared to 62 the week before.

City-wide cases also declined during this time, but still remain dangerously high. On Monday, the city reported 185 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its seven-day average to 131.

At a press conference late last week, school officials said the city’s high daily case counts would prevent them from returning students to the classroom for at least another week. If cases remain high and the city’s positivity rate stays the same, virtual learning is likely to be extended. The district is expected to revisit its decision before Jan. 28.

New Orleans officials instituted heightened coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 8 in response to the city’s surging cases. The day before, the district pivoted most classrooms to online-only instruction, giving individual schools the option to continue teaching very young students and students with special needs in-person.

At a press conference last Thursday, Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said “a few schools” had decided to keep teaching their “neediest” students face-to-face.

The district’s tracker includes students and staff who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are within the virus’s two-week isolation period as well as those who are in quarantine due to possible exposure. Currently, 112 people are in quarantine, down from 205 people the week before. Cases and quarantines are included regardless of where the virus was contracted.

Except for one cluster reported in mid-November, there has been no evidence of potential school-based transmission, according to Tiffany Delcour, the district’s chief operations officer.

At Thursday’s press conference, Delcour explained the process school sites undergo when two or more COVID-19 cases are reported. School nurses are expected to contact the Louisiana Department of Health to help determine whether cases are connected and if a short-term closure and switch to distance learning is needed.

“The Louisiana Department of Health has never asked us to close the school or move the school to distance learning for a short period of time,” Delcour said. “As a result of those conversations, one time we did decide to do that, even though the Department of Health did not advise us to do so.”

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