Public health officials have eyes on school reopening

Climbing COVID case rates could impact return
Posted at 4:42 PM, Dec 27, 2021

CLEVELAND — Cases of COVID-19 are rising in Ohio. Public health officials in the state are closely watching what will happen in the next two weeks as classes start after the winter break.

"I think the next week, week and a half is going to be all telling," said Donna Skoda, the Summit County Health Commissioner. She's been watching COVID-19 trends in her county for the last two years and the latest trend has her worried.

"Omicron is very contagious," she said about the transmissibility of the newest COVID-19 variant. "It's been compared second to measles."

Skoda has her eyes on what the return to classes will look like.

"They were hit hard right before the break," she said. "You also really need to advocate with your families for vaccination if the children are old enough ... If you do not have the ability to put in place that mask mandate and/or social distancing, you really need to think about what a remote option looks like if your cases are still high."

The largest district in Summit County, Akron Public Schools, has not made any announcements yet. Students are expected back on January 4. The latest data from the state, from Dec. 23, shows 843 total cases in the district and 582 were in students.

In neighboring Stark County, "we definitely know there is going to be a lot of virus circulating for the next two weeks or longer," said Jim Adams.

Adams is the Canton City Health Commissioner. He said now is the time to re-enforce mask-wearing and social distancing. Students in Stark County are being vaccinated but Adams would like to see more young people get the shot.

"The highest vaccination group is people over the age of 65," he said.

Students in the Canton City School District are back on Jan. 3. The district recorded 646 total cases so far this year.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control show more than 1,800 new cases of COVID reported in Stark County over the last seven days.

Adams said the change from a pandemic to an endemic is imminent and it will impact how schools operate.

"It is just, generally, going to be part of our environment," he said.

Both Skoda and Adams said accessing tests will be important as classrooms reopen.