The NOLA Public Schools district is tracking 665 “active” COVID-19 cases among students and staff, and 1,058 people are in quarantine after coming into contact with a positive case, according to the district’s latest weekly report issued Monday afternoon. 

The latest case count is a dramatic 58 percent drop from last week, when the district was reporting 1,603 cases, and a 70 percent drop from the 2,233 cases the district reported two weeks ago. Quarantines are also down significantly from last week, when more than 4,000 staff and students — more than 9 percent of students and staff — were out of school due to a close contact. 

The district helped coordinate over 15,000 tests last week with a positive rate of 5 percent. That’s also a notable decrease from 13 percent positivity two weeks ago and 6.7 percent last week, according to district data.  

Of the 665 “active” cases, 568 are among students and 97 are among staff. The district has recorded 5,074 cases since the beginning of the school year. 

Across the state, children ages five to 17 account for the largest share, nearly 20 percent, of newly diagnosed cases. Beginning Feb. 1, the district will require students 5 and older to be fully vaccinated. The district’s requirement goes above and beyond any other requirement in the state, although the state has broad exemptions for student vaccinations. 

That deadline aligns with a similar requirement by the city that children over 5 show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter restaurants and other types of establishments. 

Currently, the city reports 54 percent of children ages 5 to 17 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while close to 39 percent are fully vaccinated. Nearly 83 percent of adults in the city are fully vaccinated. The district and its schools continue to host on-campus vaccination events.

The latest numbers from the school district come as experts believe that the dramatic surge due to the highly contagious omicron variant has peaked.

The state is reporting a test positivity rate for the city of nearly 19 percent in New Orleans — down from nearly 25 percent in the previous reporting period. The state’s calculation typically lags by more than a week, but is considered more reliable than the city’s more up-to-date numbers. City data show a test positivity rate of roughly 9 percent, down from 10 to 17 percent earlier in the month. Daily case count averages have also declined in recent weeks after spiking in early January. 

Two charter schools returned to in-person learning instruction this week after a two-week shift to virtual. Students at Landry High School and Behrman Elementary School, which have a combined enrollment of just over 1,600, returned to campus Monday. The schools switched to remote learning after just two days in class following the winter break in early January when cases were rising rapidly and the network was concerned about staffing issues and overall health. 

Last week Landry reported four cases and Behrman reported 21. Neither campus had any people under quarantine. Algiers Charter Schools Association Spokeswoman Uyen Yi said virtual learning went well and all grade levels were back on campus Monday. 

“Our PK-2nd grade students are expected to return today with their completed packets, and our 3rd-12th grade students are returning the Chromebooks and hotspots we issued to them,” she wrote in an email. “We’ve been really proud of how resilient our students are and how our entire community responded to being asked to pivot temporarily to virtual learning.”

“With the community numbers starting to go down, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to remain in person for the remainder of the school year,” she wrote. “Of course, the health and safety of our school community will always be our priority, and data will continue to drive our decisions.”

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...