Douglas County virus guidance upgraded to orange tier as number of COVID-19 cases continue to increase

photo by: Sylas May/Journal-World Illustration

As the second week of school since winter break comes to a close, cases for the coronavirus in Douglas County continue to rise and have led to an upgrade in Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s school guidance recommendation.

The health department announced Thursday it had upgraded its recommendation to schools to its orange tier. The orange tier calls for schools to continue to use hybrid in-person learning, but prohibit “high risk” activities and athletics. The color-coded guidance is meant to help county school districts navigate reopening schools and conducting activities as the pandemic continues during the school year.

According to the health department’s data, the 14-day average number of new cases continues to increase, reaching 65 on Thursday. However, the 14-day average positivity rate has slightly declined to 7.9%.

Dan Partridge, director for the health department, said in the announcement the upgrade was necessary because of the uptick in new cases, which have continued to increase since the holidays. Additionally, the county currently has a total of 1,200 active cases.

“More than 1,200 active cases in our community means that 1% of the county’s population has COVID-19 right now, which is a somber statistic,” Partridge said. “It’s a reminder to our community to double down on those important public health measures of masking up, practicing social distance and washing your hands so that we can protect those most vulnerable in our community.”

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Jan. 14 COVID-19 update from the health department

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Douglas County’s 14-day average positivity rate for Jan. 14, 2021

Locally, the positivity rates are higher for some communities. Eudora has a positivity rate of 12.8% and Lecompton has a positivity rate of 13.4%. Both are above the 10% threshold that would suggest an orange tier recommendation from the health department’s guidance.

Meanwhile, Lawrence has a positivity rate of 7.3% and Baldwin City has a positivity rate of 8.9%., both of which suggest a yellow tier recommendation. The yellow tier calls for schools to use fully or hybrid in-person learning.

But Lawrence follows its own gating criteria. The district’s system collects data for five criteria related to the spread of the virus in the community and school district. That data is then put into a weighted system — giving some criteria more importance than others — to come up with an average rating, which then provides a learning method recommendation.

The system again provided a 2.2 average rating, which provides a yellow tier recommendation. District spokeswoman Julie Boyle said last week the district would continue to use it’s yellow-tier hybrid learning model through Jan. 22. The yellow tier calls for sixth grade and up to use hybrid, while pre-K to fifth grade uses hybrid or fully in-person learning.

The Lawrence guidance can be found on its website, usd497.org.

The health department’s school guidance can be found on its website, ldchealth.org/457/Smart-and-Safe-School-Reopening. Both are updated on Thursdays.


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