From June 2021, seventeen-year-old Terrence receives a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Booker T. Washington High School after the CDC lowers the eligibility age to 12. (Marta Jewson/The Lens)

The NOLA Public Schools district is tracking 384 “active” COVID-19 cases among students and staff, and 1,471 people are in quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person, according to the district’s latest weekly report issued Monday afternoon. 

On Tuesday, a districtwide school vaccine mandate was set to take effect. But with only about 40 percent of 5-17 year-olds fully vaccinated in the city of New Orleans, a district spokesperson said that unvaccinated students will not be turned away from in-person classes, Fox 8 News reported Monday. In Louisiana, parents can opt out of required vaccinations for their children — without a doctor’s note or a religious-exemption claim — by signing an exemption form and submitting it to their school. 

“The COVID-19 vaccine is the best tool we have to keep students and staff safe, our schools open, and children learning in classrooms where they belong,”  NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Henderson Lewis was quoted as saying in a district press release. “We are urging all families to contact their schools about getting vaccinated or requesting a waiver for their child. This is no different than the annual approach to immunizations for other illnesses. It is time we all come together to vaccinate as many children as possible to keep COVID-19 at bay.”

The latest district case count is a 43 percent drop from last week, when the district was reporting 65 cases. This is the third week the district is reporting a drop since a record case count of 2,233 cases among staff and students in early January. That spike corresponded with the peak of the omicron surge among the state’s overall population, which has since seen similar declines in newly reported cases and hospitalizations. 

Across the state, new cases have declined dramatically among all age groups. School-aged children accounted for the largest share for the week of Jan. 20-Jan. 26, the most recent data available from the Louisiana Department of Health.

Quarantines among NOLA Public Schools staff and students have increased by 413 this week from 1,058 reported last week. But they are likewise down significantly from the early January peak, when more than 4,000 people were quarantined.

Edward Hynes Charter School’s Lakeview campus is reporting the highest number of cases and quarantines this week, with 34 and 222, respectively.

Of this week’s active cases — meaning those diagnosed in the past two weeks — 53 are among staff and 331 are among students. According to a press release, the district conducted more than 20,000 tests last week, reporting a positivity rate of 2.8 percent. 

Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado is the editor of The Lens. He previously worked as The Lens' government accountability reporter, covering local politics and criminal justice. Prior to joining The Lens, he worked for...