Active cases of COVID-19 connected to New Orleans public schools held steady at 76 this week while people quarantining increased slightly to 769, according to a weekly report from the NOLA Public Schools district. 

The update comes as schools wrap up in-person and virtual instruction before a two-week winter holiday break. This week, New Orleans remained just under the state’s five percent testing positivity threshold that would have triggered additional state restrictions, such as closing bars to indoor service. By remaining below that threshold, city of New Orleans officials announced there would be no new restrictions

The 76 cases — 54 among students and 22 among staff — mirrored last week’s case count and distribution. Last week the district reported 80 cases with 712 people quarantining. Two-thirds of the cases were in students. The last two weeks mark a shift from prior weeks when cases were split fairly evenly between students and staff. 

Vaccine distribution began across the country this week, with vaccines first administered in New Orleans on Tuesday.  A second coronavirus vaccine, produced by Moderna, got the greenlight from a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee Thursday, according to The Washington Post. That means vaccine distribution could begin as early as next week for people in long-term care facilities, like nursing homes, including residents and employees. The first round of vaccinations has largely been given to health care workers. 

Officials said that while there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, citizens must remain vigilant over the holiday break to ensure students can return to in-person learning. 

Three schools — Arthur Ashe, Lusher High School and Samuel Green — each had more than 60 people quarantining. Green had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in students with six. Lusher’s high school had five student cases and Ashe had three staff cases.

Firstline Schools CEO Sabrina Pence said of the six cases at Green, which the Firstline nonprofit group oversees, three of the students had not been in class recently. The other three classes moved to virtual learning. 

The district does not release a cumulative count, but based on what the district has released, the cumulative count over the last ten weeks appears to be 286 cases: 12 cases in week one, four new cases in week two, 11 new cases in week three, nine in week four, six in week five, 12 in week six, 45 in week seven, 81 over weeks eight and nine, 60 in week ten and 46 in week 11. 

The district’s next update will come January 11.

Marta Jewson

Marta Jewson covers education in New Orleans for The Lens. She began her reporting career covering charter schools for The Lens and helped found the hyperlocal news site Mid-City Messenger. Jewson returned...