NOLA Public Schools is reporting 62 active cases of COVID-19 among students and school employees, with 205 people, possibly exposed, quarantining this week. Of those cases, 34 were newly confirmed since last week. 

It’s likely that a large number of those cases were not transmitted during school activity. “Active” cases are those that were diagnosed within about two weeks. And Tuesday’s update comes about two weeks after a sudden decision to suspend all in-person classes districtwide, which district officials made the day students returned to campus after winter break. The decision to close schools was made in the midst of a spike in new cases and test positivity across the city.

Last week was the district’s first report since the holiday. It reported 93 active cases among students and staff, a record for this school year. 

Meanwhile, the city’s seven-day average new daily case count has dropped over the past ten days, from a recent peak of 266 on Jan. 9 to 171 on Monday. The city’s average positive COVID-19 test positivity rate has also dropped in recent weeks. While the city numbers are believed to be less accurate than the state, district officials say they use the two data sources in tandem as the local data can provide real-time information. The state’s official positivity rate for the city, which lags a bit behind city data, is 9.7 percent.

The earliest the district will evaluate the decision to close campuses is Thursday. That’s one day after new state data will be released. 

“NOLA-PS will continue to monitor COVID-19 data and trends and reevaluate this decision no sooner than Jan. 21, in hopes that the local trend in positivity rates and case counts improves,” officials said when schools were closed earlier this month. 

District officials have said they would reevaluate the metrics used to decide whether or not to allow in-person learning. Initially the district wanted to see no higher than an average of 50 new cases per day and five percent positivity. The availability of testing is also a factor in their decision, and this week the district has expanded its own testing. The district began coordinating vaccinations for school nurses last week. 

Of this week’s 62 active cases of COVID-19, 32 are staff and 30 are students.

The district does not release a cumulative count of cases connected to schools, but based on what the district has released, the case count over the its 13 weekly reports appears to be 413 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. In its 12th report, which came three weeks after the 11th, the district reported 93 new cases. This week, the district reported 34 new cases. 

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...