After one week in green tier, Douglas County’s school virus guidance upgraded back to yellow
photo by: Webpage screenshot/Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health
After a brief reprieve in the green tier, the local health department has again raised its guidance to schools operating during the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced Thursday that it was raising its recommendation back to the yellow tier, which calls for hybrid in-person instruction and prohibiting competitions among “high risk” athletics and activities. The color-coded guidance is meant to help county school districts navigate reopening schools and conducting activities as the pandemic continues into the fall semester.
Last week, the health department lowered its guidance to the green tier, which allows for fully in-person classes and all athletics and activities to continue, for the first time since August. But the guidance would only remain there for a week after the local 14-day average positivity rate increased past the 5% threshold that separates the two tiers.
According to the data provided by the health department, the average positivity rate has increased to 5.2%. Last week the rate was 4.6%, providing the first time the rate had fallen below the 5% threshold in months.
However, Dan Partridge, director of the health department, said in the announcement the total number of tests administered during that period had fallen from an average of 4,000 to 3,300, a 17.5% decline, which may have affected the positivity rate.
“We believe our community continues to do a good job with masking and social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus in our community – particularly with what we are seeing in communities in other areas of the state and region,” Partridge said.
photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health
Additionally, most of the Douglas County communities also saw their local positivity rates increase. Lawrence’s rate rose from 4.4% to 5.1%, Eudora’s rate rose from 5.2% to 6% and Lecompton’s rate rose from zero to 6.1%. But Baldwin City saw its local rate fall from 7.5% to 5.7%.
Meanwhile, the 14-day average number of new cases has continued to fall. The health department’s data shows the average has fallen to about 16 cases this week, after coming in at 17 cases last week.
For most of the fall semester, the health department recommended that the county stay in the yellow tier of the school guidance. The health department originally upgraded to the yellow tier on Aug. 27 after seeing a spike in average new cases per day, which was largely due to the University of Kansas’ testing of students and faculty. At its peak, the 14-day average of new cases per day reached the low 40s, but it began to decline at the beginning of September.
Since then, a decline in the average positivity rate and number of cases has generally continued, with the guidance last week falling to green for the first time since local districts began school in early September.
The health department’s change in guidance on Thursday is the second to occur while the Lawrence school district, the largest in the county, is transitioning to hybrid in-person learning. The district is about to finish its second week of a four week phase-in period that brings students back to classrooms.
The health department’s up-to-date school guidance can be found on its website, ldchealth.org/457/Smart-and-Safe-School-Reopening. Department officials said the guidance will be updated each Thursday.
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