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NOLA Public Schools' COVID-19 Tracker Now Includes Total Number Of Cases, 559 Since Late September

Aubri Juhasz
Students play at Akili Academy in the Upper 9th Ward. Nov. 13, 2020.

Since classrooms reopened in late September, the district has recorded 559 cases of COVID-19, according to new data released Monday.

Until now, the district’s tracker has displayed the number of active and newly reported cases on its website, but not a running total.

WWNO’s Education Desk has maintained its own tracker since mid-September based on publicly available data. The total number of cases collected from press releases comes to 462. The district’s tally identifies 97 additional cases.

Taslin Alfonzo, the district’s director of media relations, said in an email Tuesday afternoon that data discrepancies are due to reporting lag time between individual schools, state health authorities and the district.

Find the district's newly updated tracker here

Credit Aubri Juhasz / WWNO
A screenshot of the district's cumulative case count as of 12 p.m. on Monday, February 1, 2021. More than 550 cases have been reported since late September.

For months, parents and teachers have requested the district expand its tracker to include total cases as part of a push for greater transparency.

New data also showed a slight drop in active COVID-19 cases last week. The district is currently tracking 35 active cases of COVID-19 — among 23 students and 12 staff — compared to 41 cases the week before. Cases were reported across 23 schools.

A growing body of scientific research suggests schools can operate safely when mitigation measures are followed and COVID-19 transmission rate in the surrounding community is low to moderate.

School and city officials have repeatedly said they do not believe the virus is spreading in classrooms and that students and staff are contracting the virus outside of school buildings. 

After the city reported a surge in test positivity in early January, the district instructed schools to close some classrooms and gave them the option of suspending in-person instruction entirely. At the time, the district was tracking more than 90 cases of COVID-19.

Many schools pivoted all of their students to online learning, but a few elementary and middle schools decided to keep serving high-risk students in-person.

Citing the city’s improving health trends, the district is lifting some COVID-19 restrictions starting this week. The number of students allowed in classrooms and on buses has doubled and schools are allowed to serve all lower grade students in-person either part or full-time.

The district plans to return high school students to the classroom after the Mardi Gras holiday.

It’s the third week in a row that the district has reported a drop in active cases, though this week the number of newly reported cases held steady at 24. An additional 94 people are in quarantine due to possible exposure, slightly down from 112 people the week before.

Active cases refer to students and staff who are within their two week quarantine period. New cases refer to those identified during the current reporting period.

This story has been updated.

Aubri Juhasz covers K-12 education, focusing on charter schools, education funding, and other statewide issues. She also helps edit the station’s audio stories.

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