As parents from both the Parkway and Rockwood school districts debate and discuss positive and negative feedback regarding the in-person and virtual instructional offerings released July 20 in the districts’ upcoming plans for the fall 2020 semester, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) followed up many school’s decisions with its own official update on July 23.
The latest report from the CDC was requested following statements from Donald Trump to return to a five-day school week for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year.
“Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of communities, as they provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work,” as stated in the CDC’s July 23 update. “Schools also provide critical services that help to mitigate health disparities, such as school meal programs, and social, physical, behavioral, and mental health services. School closure disrupts the delivery of these critical services to children and families, and places additional economic and psychological stress on families, which can increase the risk for family conflict and violence.”
According to the July 23 report from the CDC, young children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults. While it is still possible for school-aged individuals to contract COVID-19, adults make up nearly 95% of reported cases.
As of July 21, the CDC found that about 6.6% of reported COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1% of COVID-19-related deaths are among children and adolescents less than 18 years of age across the United States.
However, as many school-aged children have been out of school since March 2020, data on the transmission of viruses in a school setting is still unavailable.
While the CDC has released its national findings, St. Louis County has reported its own findings on the prevalence of COVID-19 in school- and college-aged individuals.
According to stlcorona.com, new virus diagnoses increased across all age groups between July 2-15.
During this period, a steep spike in cases (+204%) has been reported among people ages 10-19. New diagnoses more than doubled during the same period among people ages 19 years and younger and people ages 40-59.
Currently, the rate of new diagnoses is highest among people ages 20-29, which averages to about 48.4 cases per 100,000 per day according to stlcorona.com. The lowest rate of diagnoses was found among people aged 9 years and younger, which averaged out to only 5.4 cases per 100,000 per day.
The county’s website also reported that, as of July 15, the prevalence of virus infection among those tested in St. Louis County is highest among people ages 10-19 years (12.5 %) and 20 to 29 years (11.0 %), both age groups that can be found in classrooms and college campuses.
For school districts and administrators, the CDC advised that plans to return to school should be made in collaboration with local healthcare entities based on factors like the level of community transmission. This measure has been implemented by both Rockwood and Parkway’s task forces with the availability of in-person and hybrid instruction formats. Capacity in classrooms will vary on the recorded rate of COVID-19 virus transmission observed in the community at the start of the academic year.
Based on data released by St. Louis County’s Pandemic Task Force – which has been analyzed by Dr. Christopher Prener at St. Louis University – average new hospitalizations at SSM, Mercy, St. Luke’s and BJC hospitals in the St. Louis metro area increased by 73% between July 2 (19.43 admissions per day) and July 15 (33.57 admissions per day).
The rate of recorded deaths in St. Louis County from the COVID-19 virus hit all-time highs in April and May with 10 to sometimes over 15 deaths reported daily, but recently, COVID-19-associated deaths have flatlined and even seen a slight 19% decrease recorded between July 2 (1.6 deaths per day) and July 15 (1.3 deaths per day).
Both the Parkway and Rockwood districts have also stated their plans to follow other guidelines from the CDC, such as mask-wearing for students in grades 3 and up, and social distancing mandates in all shared spaces and common areas.
Other recommendations from the CDC’s July 23 report include:
- Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of common spaces, classrooms and lab spaces between periods of use
- PArents equipping students with additional hygiene products, such as soap and sanitizer, that are only for personal use
- Front-facing, socially distant desk arrangements
- Cohorting (or podding) between groups of students and staff members to limit potential cross-over
It should be noted that all health mandates for any common/shared spaces are subject to change depending on mandates issued by St. Louis County and other governmental and or health entities.
The fall semester will begin for both districts on Aug. 24.