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Education

COVID Uptick In New Orleans Public Schools: 453 Active Cases, 4,657 Quarantined

nola schools.jpg
Aubri Juhasz
/
WWNO
PreK students at KIPP Central City Primary. Oct. 2, 2020.

During its third week of in-person classes, New Orleans Public Schools once again saw an increase in the number of coronavirus cases reported by students and teachers, as well as the number of quarantines resulting from possible classroom exposure.

NOLA-PS officials are tracking 453 active COVID-19 cases among 399 students and 54 staff members, according to data released Monday. Another 4,657 people are in quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus.

"I will say that these numbers are not what we want to see," NOLA-PS Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said in a press call Monday afternoon. "But I also will say that they're not unexpected."

The data released Monday consist of self-reported cases from Aug. 16 to 20. Of the active cases, 364 were newly reported. One hundred and twenty-five people who tested positive did so before setting foot on campus. As a result, those cases did not result in any school related quarantines.

Ninety-three new COVID cases and 638 quarantines were reported during the first week of classes. The following week, an additional 299 cases were reported and the district reported more than 3,000 people in quarantine.

The uptick in cases comes at a time when parents are on edge amid the district’s decision to continue in-person-only learning and not provide an alternative virtual option as it did last year.

Officials have taken a different approach for the 2021-22 school year, pointing to the district’s high vaccination rates and active testing programs as evidence that face-to-face instruction is safe.

Last week, NOLA-PS provided surveillance testing for 1,600 students and staff members, according to its chief operations officer, Tiffany Delcour.

“We saw a positive test rate of 1.3 percent, which is incredibly low, which shows that the level of COVID-19 in our schools is incredibly low,” Delcour said.

Delcour and Lewis both said there’s still little to no evidence that COVID is spreading in schools.

“We have had a few instances -- and again it's incredibly rare -- where you may have a quarantined classroom and somebody in that 14-day period may become positive, but you never know necessarily why,” Delcour said.

Whenever multiple students in the same class test positive, the district works with state epidemiologists to determine whether in-school transmission has occurred and if additional mitigation measures are needed, she said.

At this point medical professionals have not identified any COVID clusters or recommended that the district implement any additional prevention measures.

"We're going to do whatever we can do after safety to make sure that we have our students in school so they can get the education they deserve," Lewis said.

But the more transmissible delta variant has wreaked havoc on Louisiana at rates higher than any other wave in the pandemic.

Some parents told New Orleans Public Radio they check their email frequently for a quarantine announcement from their child’s school. Unlike last year, they feel it isn’t a matter of if their child will be exposed, but when.

The highest number of new weekly cases reported during the 2020-21 school year was 103 in early January. At the time, the district responded by abruptly pivoting to online-only classes.

Last week, however, was the first time since March 2020, when schools initially shutdown due to the pandemic, that New Orleans public schools had all students back on campus.

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