CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Board of Health has released a recommendation to schools within the county that districts start the 2020-21 school year remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Additionally, the board of health is recommending that extracurricular activities such as band, sports, theater and choir as well as others be discontinued.
"Along with maintaining a safe learning environment for students and staff, a number of questions have arisen related to preparation for sports competitions this fall. These and other extracurricular activities may not be conducive to the use of protective measures like social distancing or the use of facial coverings during participation," the agency stated. "Additionally, activities such as band, theater and choir also have the potential to increase transmission through spread of respiratory droplets."
The board of health said that it has been working with state and community officials regarding the matter.
“We understand the concerns about these recommendations, particularly related to the impact they may have on under-resourced school districts that serve low-income communities of color,” the board of health said in a news release. “However, we are equally concerned about the risk of COVID-19 transmission in these same school districts, as our current data indicate that African-Americans are three times more likely to be positive for COVID-19.”
The school board said the following items “critical factors” played a role in its decision to make the recommendation:
- Average number of daily cases – this number more than tripled between mid-June and mid-July
- Community capacity to test children – this is currently very limited
- Hospital activity – they continue to experience increasing levels of outpatient visits and hospitalizations, including intensive care admissions, related to COVID-19
- Non-congregate settings - a high percentage of recent cases have occurred in non-congregate settings
- Number of cases – local activity has been identified as being in the “high incidence” category by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Ohio Public Health Advisory System – we are currently rated as Level 3/Red. Only Level 4/Purple is higher in terms of risk for transmission of COVID-19
- Positivity rates as shown by testing – these have been climbing over the last month
- School-related settings - we have investigated multiple reports of clusters of cases in sports and other “return to play” activities
“Weighing all of these challenges, we believe this approach will allow both school administrators and public health officials to continue to assess the risk level for community disease transmission on a weekly basis and assist in creating the safest possible environments for students, staff and their families,” the board of health stated.
Health officials said that changes to the recommendation may happen based on the following conditions:
- COVID-19 testing positivity rates
- Ohio Public Health Advisory System metrics
- Relevant clinical and epidemiologic indicators as identified above
- Tracking the incidence of new COVID-19 case
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