School COVID cases appear down again; data inconsistencies continue

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Less than a week after the Centers for Disease Control approved such booster shots, readers have a lot of questions about such doses.

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The number of new student COVID cases reported by local schools dropped for the third week in a row last week, after peaking in early September, according to Ohio Department of Health data released Thursday.

Schools in the Dayton area reported 563 new student COVID cases from Sept. 20-26, down from 677 the week before, and down from 911 and 1,011 earlier in September. Local schools reported 93 new staff cases last week, after hovering between 113 and 120 the previous three weeks.

That weekly total of 563 students is still close to 50% more new cases than any single week last school year. Local health officials attribute higher numbers this year to the more contagious nature of the COVID Delta variant, which was surging just as school started in August, without mask rules in many schools.

The number of new student COVID cases reported by local schools dropped for the third week in a row last week, after peaking in early September, according to Ohio Department of Health data released Thursday.
Caption
The number of new student COVID cases reported by local schools dropped for the third week in a row last week, after peaking in early September, according to Ohio Department of Health data released Thursday.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

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School-reported COVID cases were also lower last week statewide — the second straight week of statewide decline. The number of newly reported student cases in Ohio was 6,214, down from 7,896. Newly reported staff cases statewide were 1,024 for Sept. 20-26, down from 1,191 the previous week.

Concerns remain about the accuracy of the ODH data. For example, there were zero new cases attributed to any Preble County school or district last week. In three of the five districts, ODH shows no new cases at all in the past three weeks, despite data on some of the schools’ websites continuing to show new or active cases.

Preble County Health Department officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

On Thursday night, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Alicia Shoults put the onus on local officials, repeating that schools are required to report COVID-19 cases to their local health department, and those local health officials are required to report the information to ODH.

“This is a self-report system and the accuracy of the data relies both the school and (local health departments),” Shoults said. “It is important for schools to be transparent and report this information so that parents and families can best understand the level of risk of exposure within a school district.”

School-by-school

The ODH data released Thursday showed the Piqua school district with 64 new COVID cases Sept. 20-26 — almost double any other school or district in the area. But it appears that number was wrong.

Piqua Superintendent Dwayne Thompson was surprised by the ODH numbers Thursday, and after looking into the issue, he said Friday that the problem had been on the school’s end.

Nurse Amy Welker, director of health and sanitation for the city of Piqua, works with the district to track COVID cases. Welker said Friday that some cases had been double-counted locally, and the correct number of new student cases for last week was 38. Welker sent a corrected report to ODH on Friday.

Piqua’s 38 new student cases were still the most in the area. Thompson acknowledged “waking up nervous” many days about whether the district will have too many teachers or bus drivers out sick or on quarantine, but he said district staff have done a great job of covering any openings so school can stay open.

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Piqua was one of the districts that didn’t start school until Sept. 7, meaning this data reporting period was their third week of school, matching the time that some other local districts had a high number of cases.

Mad River, which also started classes Sept. 7, reported the highest number of new student cases in Montgomery County last week (32), despite being less than half the size of Kettering and Centerville, which started earlier and had 18-19 new cases last week.

The public school districts with the most new student cases for the week were Piqua (38), Beavercreek (33), Mad River (32), Fairborn (30), Dayton (28), Springboro (24), Xenia (23), Tecumseh (22), Centerville (19), Kettering (18) and Troy (18).

Among individual private and charter and career tech schools, the highest COVID case tallies last week were at the Upper Valley Career Center (11), DECA Prep (10), the Warren County Career Center (9), Miami Valley CTC (7) and Chaminade Julienne (5).

The schools that reported the highest number of new staff COVID cases last week were Dayton with 13 and Trotwood-Madison with seven.

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