The News-Times

Data: School COVID down in CT for 1st time in month

- By Jordan Nathaniel Fenster

COVID-19 cases among Connecticu­t’s students went down this week for the first time in a month, according to state data.

In the past week, there were 1,533 cases of COVID identified among staff at Connecticu­t schools, according to state data, a decrease of 1,150. There were 9,722 COVID cases among students in Connecticu­t, a decrease of 5,263.

The vast majority of students with COVID cases are unvaccinat­ed, according to the state data. Of the 9,722 students with COVID infections, 2,891 were fully vaccinated. The remainder have either not been vaccinated or no vaccinatio­n informatio­n was provided, the data showed.

Teachers in Connecticu­t have been required to be vaccinated against COVID since August 2021, and only 125 of the 1,533 identified school staff members with COVID cases have not been vaccinated. No vaccinatio­n informatio­n was provided for 344 staff members, the data showed.

The state Department of Education declined to comment on the latest figures, referring questions to the Department of Public Health, which did not reply to a request for comment.

School officials and employees are relieved to see the omicron surge ease, according to Connecticu­t Associatio­n of Public School Superinten­dents Executive Director Fran Rabinowitz.

“The first week back from holiday vacation was incredibly difficult in terms of being able to project how many staff members would be out and how many students would be ill with omicron,”

she said. “It was an incredibly difficult week.”

Last week saw the highest number of both student and staff cases. There were 2,467 cases of COVID among Connecticu­t schools staff during that period, a decrease from 2,767 the week prior.

During the same period, there were 12,740 cases among students, an increase of 2,914 from 9,826 the week earlier.

“It’s improved some since then. The staffing has eased up. There are more staff members back,” Rabinowitz said. “They’re dealing with staff shortages, but I think it’s less onerous than it was that week after vacation.”

There were reports of impending snow the week after the holiday break, and Rabinowitz said districts were hoping for it.

“We were all hoping for that snow day because it was so very difficult,” she said.

Rabinowitz said a slowing rate of COVID cases among staff and students is having a positive effect, but policy changes have also helped ease those issues.

The state Department of Public Health late last month altered in-school protocols, allowing school districts to halt contact tracing

efforts and recommende­d shorter quarantine times for infected students and staff in certain circumstan­ces.

“Individual­s who test positive for COVID-19 should isolate at home for at least five days, or longer if symptoms develop and persist,” DPH said. “A mask should continue to be worn for an additional five days at all times when around others.”

Those changes helped schools manage staffing shortages, according to Rabinowitz.

“Quarantini­ng for five days with a mask helped a great deal,” she said. “The contact tracing requiremen­t being removed helped an awful lot as well.”

Though COVID cases and resulting staff shortages have decreased, some districts were struggling with staffing issues long before the pandemic, and still are, Rabinowitz said. She noted Hartford, Bridgeport and Waterbury, in particular.

“It’s getting better. What we also have to make note of, is in our challenged districts, there’s a staffing shortage above and beyond COVID,” she said. “We’re not out of the woods on staffing shortages.”

 ?? Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo ?? Students arrive for the first day of classes at Coleytown Middle School in Westport on Aug. 31.
Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticu­t Media file photo Students arrive for the first day of classes at Coleytown Middle School in Westport on Aug. 31.

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