Douglas County school virus guidance downgraded to yellow tier as COVID-19 cases decline

photo by: Sylas May/Journal-World Illustration

As cases of the coronavirus fall in Douglas County, the local health department has downgraded its guidance recommendation to schools.

Lawrence Douglas County Public Health announced Thursday that it had lowered its recommendation to the yellow tier, which calls for schools to use hybrid or fully in-person classes. 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.

Sonia Jordan, the health department’s director of informatics, said in the announcement that the 14-day average number of new cases and 14-day average positivity rate for the virus have both dropped in the last week, leading to the downgrade.

According to the health department’s data, the average number of new cases dropped from 65 cases last week to 49 cases this week, while the average positivity rate dropped from 7.9% last week to 3.8% this week. Additionally, the number of active cases has fallen by almost 150 cases, for a total of 1,063.

Locally the positivity rates have improved as well, as Eudora is the only community with a positivity rate above 5%, coming in at 8.9%. Meanwhile, Lawrence has a 3.5% rate, Baldwin City has a 3.7% rate and Lecompton has a 4.8% rate.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Jan. 21 COVID-19 update from the health department

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Douglas County’s 14-day average positivity rate for the COVID-19 virus on Jan. 21, 2021.

Using its own gating criteria, the improving virus data didn’t make much of a change for the Lawrence school district.

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 provided a 1.9 average score on Thursday, which is an improvement from the 2.2 score last week but still remains in the district’s yellow tier. 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 district announced in a social media post it would continue using the hybrid model for the next two weeks.

The Lawrence guidance can be found on its website,

The health department’s school guidance can be found on its website, Both are updated on Thursdays.

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