Lawrence school district now says it will allow sports, activities for next 2 weeks

photo by: Mike Yoder/Journal-World File Photo

In this file photo from Monday, June 2, 2014, Lawrence High School football players run through drills during summer camp.

Story updated at 8:08 p.m. Friday:

The Lawrence school district has reversed course on its plan to delay some “high risk” sports because of an increase of local COVID-19 cases.

A day after announcing it would delay competitions of certain sports and activities, the Lawrence school district did an about-face on Friday and said it would allow all athletic events and activities to continue for the next two weeks.

In an email to media Friday evening, district spokesperson Julie Boyle said the district wanted to continue monitoring the spike in new COVID-19 cases driven by testing at the University of Kansas, and that it would evaluate the situation again on Sept. 10.

The decision means the Lawrence High School and Free State High School football teams will be able to begin their seasons, as both have their first games scheduled for Sept. 4.

On Thursday, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health upgraded its COVID-19 guidance to county schools to the yellow tier, which suggests that schools use hybrid learning options and avoid competitions in high-risk activities, which includes football. Until Thursday, the guidance had been in the green tier, which allows for fully in-person classes and for all activities to continue, as long as standard public safety precautions are taken.

Later that day, Boyle said in an email that the district would delay high-risk activity competitions — football, soccer, competitive cheer and dance, band and choir — from Monday until the health department’s recommendation returned to the green tier.

The health department’s guidance change came after an increase of local COVID-19 cases in Douglas County, many from KU’s testing of its students returning to campus. Despite the county’s overall infection rate remaining low, at 3.2% at the time, the county’s 14-day moving average for new cases per day increased from less than 12 cases last week to more than 30 cases this week, the health department said.

“We recognize that the entry testing and high number of tests of University of Kansas students drove the number of new cases,” health department Director Dan Partridge said in the release. “Given those COVID-19 cases are now in our community, we believe it’s prudent to move to phase Yellow.”

Despite the guidance change, Boyle said Friday that the number of average new cases per day in the county has begun to drop and the district wants to see if that trend continues.

“The number of new COVID-19 cases has declined during each of the last two days,” Boyle said in the email. “The administration wants to see if the spike in new positive cases driven by KU’s entry testing continues to decline.”

The county has averaged about 31 new cases per day over the last 14 days, according to a 14-day moving average graph updated weekdays by the health department. The current average of 31 new cases per day is down slightly from a recent high of 36 cases per day and up significantly from a recent low of about eight cases per day in early August, the Journal-World has reported.

The health department’s up-to-date school guidance can be found on its website, Department officials said the guidance will be updated weekly on Thursdays.


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