By Jennifer Eisenbart

Editor

As the most of the state remained in critically high transmission rates this week, the question of how COVID-19 is affecting schools is on the minds of many people.

Using information updated Monday, county reporting of total cases is as follows:

  • In Kenosha County, there have been 3,134 confirmed and probable cases over the last seven days.
  • In Racine County, there have been 1,904 confirmed and probable cases reported.
  • In Walworth County, there have been 1,218 confirmed and probable cases reported.

Those numbers indicate overall infections, and may not count any home-tested cases. Case numbers now reported directly to the state, and are broken down at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/data.htm#encounter, by clicking on school districts.

Gabrielle Manders, the pandemic supervisor for the Walworth County Department of Health and Human Services, said the county uses the data available from the Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health Services for as consistent and accurate a reporting metric as possible for all cases.

“Preliminary data from the DHS and CDC suggests that we are nearing the peak of the omicron wave of COVID-19 in our county,” Manders said. “With that being said, national and statewide projections predict a plateau in cases over the next two weeks.”

However, Manders said that new cases in the county have been shifting younger, with 20% of new and probable cases being in youth ages 10-19.

“With the projected continuation of high community transmission and increase in youth COVID-19 cases, schools may not begin to feel a decrease in cases for several weeks.”

She added that data suggests most students are being exposed to the virus either at home or in the community.

“While there has been an increase in school-based transmission over the last several weeks, our school nurses and administrators have been prioritizing mitigation and contact-tracing efforts,” Manders said.

Most of the cases appear to be mild, as Manders pointed out the county has not seen an increase in youth hospitalizations or death from the omicron variant.

By way of contrast, Jen Freiheit of Kenosha County Public Health said schools are not required to report to the county. However, though, she said, “the key word is required.”

“While not required, we work with our 11 school districts and private and parochial schools often in a great collaborative effort,” she explained.

She said Kenosha County is seeing a “dramatic” rise in child cases since December, and that anecdotal evidence – like schools going to virtual learning due to low staffing – also points to a rise in staff cases due to the omicron variant.

The numbers, according to the state database, are similar within a wide number of school districts in this area. Burlington Area School District is at 220 cases reported within the district over the last seven days, while Wilmot Union High School is 273.

East Troy is at 128 cases, while Delavan-Darien is looking at 159 cases. High school-only districts like Waterford, Lake Geneva and Westosha are reporting 146 cases, 274 cases and 294 cases, respectively.

Elkhorn Schools Superintendent Jason Tadlock said that Elkhorn works with Summit Lab for testing at the school, with positive cases through that program getting logged at the county and state level.

“If they test at the school, it gets reported,” Tadlock said.

As of Jan. 21, there were 104 positive tests in the Elkhorn school district, as well as 22 positive staff tests. Those numbers were down from the week previous, though, as Elkhorn had 144 positive student cases and 30 positive staff cases as of Jan. 14.

“They were at a very high level and they are going down very rapidly,” Tadlock said. “Hopefully, we’ll see that trend continue.”

As for school vaccinations, Tadlock said that more than 75% of his staff had been vaccinated and about 30% of the eligible students.

Racine County Public Health did not respond to a request for an interview prior to deadline for this story.

Vaccinations

Vaccination clinics for all ages are being held at a variety of sites in Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties.

Information on the vaccine can be found at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/covid-19/vaccine-dose.htm.

To schedule an appointment or find a clinic, go to:

  • Kenosha County – kenoshacounty.timetap.com/#/
  • Racine County (and other areas) can be found at vaccines.gov
  • For Walworth County, go to www.co.walworth.wi.us/896/COVID-19-Vaccine-Information.
 

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