Douglas County school virus guidance remains in green tier for fifth straight week; data suggests Lawrence schools’ guidance could be downgraded

photo by: Sylas May/Journal-World Illustration

Douglas County’s school virus guidance will remain at its lowest tier for the fifth straight week as key metrics for the spread of COVID-19 remain low.

On Thursday, Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health announced that its guidance to schools would stay in the green tier, which recommends that schools use fully in-person classes. The color-coded guidance is meant to help county school districts navigate reopening schools and conducting activities.

Meanwhile, a key metric that the Lawrence school district uses to determine its guidance showed improvement, which suggests the guidance will fall into the green level for the first time. However, the guidance had not been officially updated by the district as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The district is currently on spring break.

Both Douglas County’s 14-day average positivity rate and the 14-day average number of new cases per day have remained low in the last week. According to the health department’s data, the positivity rate fell from 2.4% last week to 2.3% this week, while the average number of new cases per day remained around 10. Additionally, the number of active cases in the community has fallen to 234.

Locally, the positivity rates were all at 5% or lower. Eudora had a 4.1% rate, Baldwin City had a 4% rate and Lawrence had a 2% rate. Lecompton reported no new cases, so its positivity rate was 0%.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Douglas County’s COVID-19 14-day average of new cases for March 11, 2021.

photo by: Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health

Douglas County’s COVID-19 14-day average positivity rate for March 11, 2021.

The improving data also suggests that the Lawrence school district’s own guidance will fall into its green tier. That would allow the district to return to fully in-person learning this month.

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 formula — giving some criteria more importance than others — to come up with an average rating, which then provides a learning method recommendation.

On Thursday evening, the district hadn’t formally updated its metrics for the week. But data from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which the district uses for its metrics, suggests that the district’s guidance should be in the green tier, which calls for fully in-person learning.

The one factor that was keeping the district’s guidance in the yellow tier last week was the local two-week incidence rate for COVID-19. While the incidence rate had been declining for weeks, it has to fall below 101 cases per 100,000 people for the guidance to be downgraded to the green tier. On Thursday, the metric was at 97.3 new cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

The district is already preparing for a move back to fully in-person learning. Last month, Superintendent Anthony Lewis announced the district was working to bring students back to fully in-person classes five days a week in March. Elementary students are scheduled to return on Monday, and secondary education students are scheduled to return on March 29.

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

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