Coweta Schools report COVID-19 cases falling among students, staff
From Coweta County Schools Press Release
After seeing higher levels of COVID-19 activity in August and September, new cases of COVID-19 have decreased significantly among Coweta County students and staff in recent weeks.
The decreases have led to the lowest levels of COVID activity among staff and students since the beginning of the school year, and have allowed almost all schools to return basic preventative measures.
Coweta Schools opened in August, as Coweta County and the state of Georgia experienced rising levels of COVID-19 transmission. All 33 Coweta County schools employ baseline COVID-19 mitigative measures, including encouraging (but not requiring) all individuals to follow CDC guidance to wear a mask while in a school, requiring masks on school buses per an ongoing federal order, social distancing where practicable, recommending self health-checks for students and staff, cleaning and hygiene measures, and participation with the Georgia Department of Public Health to perform close contact investigations where needed, with the Georgia Department of Health making final determinations of quarantine in those cases.
The school system also tracks reports of COVID-19 cases by school, and reports on the percentage of cases by total population each week. Seven-day case rates during the second week of school (August 7-12) were 0.33% of population system-wide, and rose to 0.88% of population by the week of August 13-19. The system-wide case rate rose beyond 1% during the week of August 20, and on August 27 the school system posted its highest seven-day student and staff positive positivity rate of 1.73%.
In response to rising cases of COVID-19 around the community and in schools, on August 20 the school system worked with the Georgia Department of health to change quarantine procedures, and implemented a “tiered” system of increased mitigation at schools that showed a seven-day case rate of 1% or higher. Schools with case rates above 1% maintained basic, Tier 1, preventative measures, and also temporarily limited visitors to schools and curtailed group activities, among other approaches. Schools which showed continued rise, beyond 2% of population over a period, also maintained Tier 2 precautions, and also temporarily required face masks and other measures until case rates showed evidence of decreasing at the school. The goal of the system has been to reduce or limit transmission and close-contact quarantines in schools when there is evidence of increase, and to maintain schools’ ability to provide face-to-face learning for our community. Once decreasing rates fell below 2% or 1%, the added measures were curtailed.
“The goal has been, first, to keep our schools open,” said Superintendent Evan Horton. “We have followed the data school-by-school, and let that determine where we need increased measures. We feel that this approach provides us with the information needed to make strategic data-driven decisions. And when the data indicates that conditions have improved, we lessen measures to those of our baseline plan.”
“It has also been an attempt to balance a desire for a normalcy at our schools with the needs for extra mitigation when the data indicates it,” said Horton.
The approach of adding tiers temporarily has been successful. As cases rose, most schools in August or September experienced Tier 2 or Tier 3 mitigation measures (only Arnco-Sargent Elementary School remained at Tier 1, among Coweta’s 33 schools). By September 2, however, the school system rate had reduced its seven-day rate of COVID infections system-wide to 1.47% overall, and by today, then to 0.65% by September 14, and to 0.21% by October 7.
As of October 7, only 1 school was at Tier 3 preventative measures (required face masks), and 2 schools are at Tier 2 precautions (limited visitors). 30 Coweta County schools are at Tier 1, as school-based positive cases have decreased dramatically to less than 1% (and at 0% for many schools). School system rates have decreased even as the case rate in Coweta County, the District 4 region and Georgia have remained “substantial”, according to the Georgia Department of Health.
“We will continue to monitor activity daily, and when we see cases increasing dramatically, we will take steps to increase protections. And when we see them decrease, we will come off of those measures where we can, all with the goal of maintaining in-person instruction in the least restrictive manner possible,” said Horton.