This week we saw a slight uptick in school closures versus the last few weeks and some interesting data trends. Some city districts are reporting their vaccination targets, other districts are reporting the percent of quarantined close contacts who test positive for Covid 19, and we saw districts across multiple states remove mask mandates due to improving metrics related to Covid 19 rates.
1. To date we have captured 605 school districts affected by closures (up from 580) involving 2,319 schools. The 25 district increase is a bit higher than last week's increase (19) and the week of 10/4 (12) and it shows up in our week to week "closure event" summary. Closures are still well below late August and early September:
2. In news from around the country:
3. As the first deadlines approach for vaccine mandates for staff we highlight recent reports:
- New York City schools vaccine mandate took effect with a reported 96% of teachers being vaccinated.
- Chicago Public Schools relaxed its vaccine mandate and will allow for testing for unvaccinated staff. "District CEO Pedro Martinez said he is reluctant to set a new deadline for vaccination," reports the Chalkbeat article.
- Los Angeles Unified School District extended its deadline for full vaccination by a month to November 15th.
- This media report indicates Cincinnati, OH Public Schools have achieved 99.99% compliance with the district's vaccine mandate for staff and this presentation details 88% of staff vaccinated with 12% being tested.
- This note from Richland, WA school district reports 74% of staff vaccinated with 11% requesting an accommodation as the October 18th deadline approaches in that state.
- In Texas, San Antonio school district's vaccine mandate was put on hold by the Supreme Court in ongoing legal action with the state.
4. We continue to see adjustments to quarantine regulations. Management of this issue is a major logistical driver behind schools staying open and we wanted to highlight representative changes:
- Missouri changed its quarantine guidance and outlines its new "test to stay" program in this Department of Education document.
- The Missouri "test to stay" program does not apply to in-home exposure, and in North Carolina new guidance calls for quarantining "if a student or person in their household develops fever, chills, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, new cough or new loss of taste or smell (emphasis theirs)." While affected individuals can test out of quarantine there are caveats: "While the PCR COVID-19 test will still be accepted in order to return to school, a negative antigen test (“rapid test”) will no longer be accepted to rule out COVID-19"
- Dorchester School District Two, SC, reports the state has changed guidance, "Previously, in order to reduce the distance from 6 feet to 3 feet for close contact, both the positive student and the close contact student needed to be masked. The new guidance allows 3 feet to be utilized when the close contact is masked, regardless of whether the positive student was masked. DHEC hopes this will assist in keeping more students in school and serve as an incentive for masking."
- Frederick County, MD school district appears to have adopted the CDC Guidance by providing for an exception for mask wearing. Of note in this media report is that two percent of quarantined students to date have tested positive for Covid 19.
- In an October 1st post on Facebook Wadsworth City Schools, OH, notes that 6.7% of students in quarantine tested positive for Covid 19 and that going forward close contacts can remain in school if they wear a mask.
5. With the above reports of mask-mandate districts moving to mask-optional, we wanted to look at swings in policy at the state level in recent months. Below is the map as of July 20th, 2021, just after the June 30th expiration of many state-wide mask mandates and before the school year started. At that time 49.2% of US K-12 students lived in states with district flexibility, 27.7% lived in states with school mask mandates, 19.6% lived in states with a ban on mask mandates, and the balance (3.5%) lived in states gave districts flexibility for vaccinated students and staff:
Today the largest figure is 42.3% of students living in states with mask mandates (from 27.7%), 30.7% with flexibility (from 49.2%) and the balance (27%) in states that have banned mask mandates, almost all of which have been challenged successfully at some court at some point in the last two months. Florida's was the biggest change in policy towards banning mandates with the balance of the movement towards putting mandates in place.