School-reported COVID cases soar; Public Health still recommends online school

Hallways at Stebbins High School are less crowded because students are divided into groups that attend on alternating days. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Caption
Hallways at Stebbins High School are less crowded because students are divided into groups that attend on alternating days. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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COVID-19 cases reported by K-12 schools rose significantly last week, both in the Dayton area and statewide, following the pattern of a worsening outbreak in the community as a whole.

Ohio Department of Health data released Thursday showed that schools reported 1,776 new COVID-19 cases among students and school staff in the week of Oct. 26 to Nov. 1, up from 1,020 and 1,281 the previous two weeks.

ExploreCOVID rates in Montgomery County hit highest point

Schools in the Dayton area reported 210 new cases last week (112 among students and 98 among school staff), a 68% increase over the previous week’s report of 125 new cases.

In response to a Dayton Daily News question this week, Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County said they still recommend that Montgomery County K-12 schools not hold classes in-person.

“Since the beginning of the school year Public Health has recommended remote learning and no extra-curricular activities, however, we are not issuing an order for remote learning unless it is a statewide mandate,” said Dan Suffoletto, spokesman for Public Health Dayton & Montgomery County. “So currently it is up to each school district to make the decision as to what is best for their circumstance.”

At the start of October, Public Health issued a “school reopening framework” saying it “supports” in-person learning and resumption of extracurricular activities if there is a “continued decline” in the total number of COVID-19 cases, and if schools commit to stringent safety protocols.

ExplorePublic Health releases back-to-school framework

There had been a decline in cases through September, but roughly since Oct. 1, Montgomery County, like the state as a whole, has seen a significant increase in cases.

Once the Dayton and Kettering school districts resume in-person classes Monday, only Jefferson Twp. and Yellow Springs schools will remain fully online in the region.

During a Dayton Public Schools Facebook event Wednesday, Montgomery County Health Commissioner Jeffrey Cooper echoed other health officials in saying that schools, where students and staff regularly follow mask rules, have not been a source of significant COVID-19 spread.

“We are seeing an increase in the spread of this virus because of what’s happening outside of the school environment,” Cooper said, mentioning “lack of masking, lack of maintaining social distancing, things such as game-day watch parties, large wedding receptions, in many communities crowded bars.”

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Local schools reporting the highest number of new cases for the week of Oct. 26 to Nov. 1 included Centerville with 14 (10 students, 4 staff), Bethel with 11 (8 students, 3 staff), plus Northmont, Troy and Beavercreek with 10 each. Last week only two districts reported more than seven new cases. This week, eight of them did.

As Dayton and Kettering prepare for in-person classes starting Monday, some confusion remains about how data is reported. The state health order requires schools to report cases involving students who attend school buildings, but not necessarily cases involving students who learn remotely.

The state dashboard shows Kettering schools with two new student cases from last week. But the district’s own dashboard, posted weekly on its own website, lists 10 new student cases from the same period, likely including some students who have been learning remotely.

Likewise, the state health order only mandates that schools notify families of staff members' COVID-19 cases if students are in the school buildings. Some school districts have been more aggressive in notification, but Dayton Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said DPS has only been notifying families of those cases where students are in school.

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DPS had 18 cumulative staff COVID cases from early September through the end of October, according to the state dashboard. Lolli said DPS is working on starting its own COVID data chart on its website.

Both statewide and locally, students accounted for slightly more new cases than school staff last week. Statewide those numbers of infections were 1,048 students and 728 staff, while locally, new cases involved 112 students and 98 school staff. Health officials have said young students are less likely to become seriously ill with COVID-19 than older people.

NEW: Schools reporting the most new COVID-19 cases last week

14 — Centerville (10 students, 4 staff)

11 — Bethel (8 students, 3 staff)

10 — Northmont (4 students, 6 staff)

10 — Troy (8 students, 2 staff)

10 — Beavercreek (6 students, 4 staff)

9 — Miamisburg (6 students, 3 staff)

8 — MVCTC (5 students, 3 staff)

8 — Fairborn (3 students, 5 staff)

7 — Springboro (4 students, 3 staff)

6 — Huber Heights (2 students, 4 staff)

6 — Mad River (2 students, 4 staff)

6 — Warren JVS (1 student, 5 staff)

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TOTAL: Schools reporting the most COVID-19 cases since Sept. 7

51 — Fairborn (26 students, 25 staff)

41 — Springboro (30 students, 11 staff)

39 — Troy (29 students, 10 staff)

30 — Centerville (13 students, 17 staff)

29 — Miamisburg (18 students, 11 staff)

28 — Beavercreek (20 students, 8 staff)

26 — Lebanon (12 students, 14 staff)

24 — Piqua (16 students, 8 staff)

24 — Northmont (7 students, 17 staff)

22 — Miami Valley CTC (12 students, 10 staff)

21 — Bethel (15 students, 6 staff)

21 — Tipp City (16 students, 5 staff)

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Health