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Cuyahoga County Board of Health still recommends remote learning, wants to see positivity rate drop

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Posted at 4:52 PM, Aug 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 16:59:51-04

PARMA, Ohio — Officials at the Cuyahoga County Board of Public Health continued to recommend remote learning for the upcoming school year, and said in order to recommend any in-person learning, there would need to be sustained decline in positivity rates below 5%.

Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan defined a sustained decline in positivity rates as below 5% over multiple weeks.

“We need to know that we aren't bouncing back and forth and we have a sense that we're headed in a clear direction, in a positive direction,” he said.

There also needs to be a sustained decline in new cases over a month-long period. Allan said the county is still coming down from its peak at around 900 cases in mid-June and mid-July.

Another determinant when considering any modifications to its current return to school recommendations, the county said it would need to stay at an orange level or below over multiple weeks. On Thursday, Cuyahoga County dropped to a Level 2 in the state’s Public Advisory Health System for the first time since it was created.

One aspect that remains a challenge for the county health officials is the increase in testing capacity among children, one that will only increase when the school year begins.

Cuyahoga County Board of Health Medical Director Heidi Gullet called widespread testing, particularly for children, “very much a work in progress.”

The lack of testing capacity for children is a challenge, Allan said.

"It dramatically complicates our outbreak response in the school setting and the lack of testing limits our response to a symptom-based investigation. We face these significant challenges even as flu season is just around the corner and we anticipate that COVID-19 and flu will circulate in our community at the same time, if there ever was a year to get a flu shot, this would be it,” Allan said.

Gullett said the board has shared their concerns with a lack of pediatric testing capacity with the state and governor's office. She said at this point, the board is handling testing on a "case by case basis" when it comes to cluster investigations involving children.

"Our community health centers have stepped up in a remarkable way in order to offer some pediatric testing availability. But they also are not labs. They are simply people who can collect the order, the test, and collect it. But it still has to be run at one of the hospital labs," she said.

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