NOLA Public Schools nurse Venus Parker receives her first does of the COVID-19 vaccine. Marta Jewson/The Lens

More than 1,500 New Orleans school staff have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after becoming eligible for it last week, according to NOLA Public Schools district spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo.

Gov. John Bel Edwards added teachers, support staff and daycare employees to the state’s eligible categories beginning Feb. 22 and with the recent approval of a third vaccine the shots are likely to roll out even quicker in the coming weeks. 

“Schools are being vaccinated by multiple healthcare providers such as New Orleans East Hospital, who is providing mobile units, and Children’s Hospital, via appointment,” Alfonzo wrote in an email.

The district is coordinating vaccinations for roughly 47 school organizations.

“Last week, New Orleans East Hospital provided vaccinations to more than 400 school staff, across 7 different school sites and Children’s Hospital provided vaccinations to over 500 school staff at their uptown location,” she wrote. “By the end of this week we anticipate that approximately two-thirds of all school staff who have indicated their willingness to receive the vaccine will be vaccinated or approximately 3,000 people.”

As of Monday, roughly 657,265 people in Louisiana had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, and 368,146 people are fully vaccinated, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. About 17 percent of people in Region 1, which includes New Orleans and surrounding parishes, have received at least one dose. 

The vaccinations mark an important milestone in the pandemic as the city approaches the one-year mark of the city’s first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 9. Schools would be shuttered statewide just four days later. 

Alfonzo said all contract workers in schools, including bus drivers and janitorial staff, are eligible for the vaccine as well but the district did not provide a breakdown of vaccinations by position. 

Meanwhile cases of COVID-19 among New Orleans public schools staff and students have remained low since Mardi Gras break. As of Tuesday, the district is tracking 13 “active” cases of COVID-19 connected to schools, and 106 people are quarantining the district reported Monday. That’s one additional case than the week prior but half the quarantines.

The 13 cases are among nine students and four staff members. Eight of those cases were newly reported last week, the week following Mardi Gras when high school students first returned to campus after a temporary campus closure. 

That tracks with the city’s health data which has continued to improve over the month of February. The city’s most recent state-calculated test positivity rate was 1.8 percent — though that number lags a bit and could include the holiday and cold snap when testing went down. New cases are averaging 48 per day over the last seven days. Both of those numbers are vast improvements over the city’s early January spike that temporarily closed school campuses. 

The NOLA Public Schools district recently upgraded its case tracker, including a cumulative count of cases among school staff and students since the beginning of the school year, rather than just “active” cases diagnosed in the previous two weeks. When it rolled out the upgrade, the tracker showed an additional 140 cases, previously unreported, in its cumulative count. The increase was due in part to cases reported to the district over holiday breaks, when it was not updating active cases in its tracker. 

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...