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COVID-19 Cases Associated With New Orleans Public Schools Remain Low Despite Loosened Restrictions

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

COVID-19 cases associated with New Orleans’ public schools dropped again last week, according to data released Tuesday.

As of Friday, officials were tracking eight active COVID-19 cases across seven schools. Six of the cases were newly reported in the last seven days and an additional 125 people were in quarantine due to possible exposure.

The district oversees 77 school sites and enrolls more than 45,000 students.

New Orleans’ overall health data is also holding steady. The city’s seven-day average for new cases is 15 and its percent positivity rate is less than 1 percent.

Vaccines are widely available. Thirty-seven percent of New Orleanians have received their first dose and about 24 percent are fully vaccinated.

Throughout the school year, a sustained drop in cases has often been the result of tighter restrictions. This time the opposite is true.

The district recently adopted guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxing social distancing. As a result, some high schools can now accommodate students full-time.

Parents can decide whether to send their children to school in person or keep learning online on a quarterly basis.

Depending on the individual school, between 20 and 30 percent of elementary and middle school students are still learning entirely online, according to district spokesperson Taslin Alfonzo.

She said high school students are even more likely to be learning online. Right now it’s closer to a 50-50 split.

More than 70 percent of Louisiana students are currently learning in-person full-time, according to the state department of education’s tracker. Another 20 percent are entirely virtual. About 9 percent of students are in a hybrid model and split their time between online and in-person instruction.

At the state level, the total number of COVID-19 cases associated with schools has also experienced a decline.

In early February, schools reported more than 1,000 new weekly cases, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. During the last week of March, schools reported 467 new cases.

Public schools are required to report positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff regardless of where transmission occurred.

New Orleans public schools have reported nearly 700 cases of COVID-19 since students first returned to the classroom in September. Officials have said on multiple occasions that these cases were contracted outside of the classroom.

New Orleans Public Schools shares COVID-19 data with the public on a weekly basis. We will continue to monitor these numbers but plan to publish less frequent updates unless health trends begin to worsen.

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

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