Students at 42 Charter School arrive on the first day of in-person classes since COVID-19 shuttered schools in March of 2020. (Michael Isaac Stein/The Lens)

Nearly a week after the city reveled in Mardi Gras, the NOLA Public School district is tracking 36 known active cases of COVID-19 in students and staff. 75 people are quarantining after coming into contact with a positive case. 

That’s down from two weeks ago, the last time the district reported numbers due to the holiday, but testing was also substantially lower with many students out of school for the week during Mardi Gras break. 

The district facilitated 2,493 COVID tests last week, a fraction of the tests it completes in a typical non-holiday week, when it often reports more than 20,000 tests.

Of the 36 cases, nine are among staff and 27 are among students, across 15 campuses. The district’s data tracker lists dozens of schools with zero cases and zero quarantines. But it is unclear whether all of those campuses actually had zero cases or had trouble submitting their reports by the district’s deadline. 

Last week, following city officials’ decision to lift the indoor mask mandate, the district announced looser restrictions as well, but did not go so far as to repeal its mask requirement. Students and staff will still be required to wear masks through at least March 18 when the district will reevaluate health data. 

The district dropped restrictions it added in the wake of the omicron surge, including reduced use of assembly spaces and increased social distancing. The isolation period for people with a positive COVID-19 test has been reduced from 10 days to five.

The district also reported that 45 percent of students are fully vaccinated and 60 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

The city continues to show promising health data, averaging 33 new COVID-19 cases per day and registering a 1.6 percent test positivity rate.

“If the level of COVID-19 in our community, as defined by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), remains low to medium, we will look to lift the District’s universal masking recommendation by March 21st,” a district press release said.

District officials urged families to have their students tested for the virus in the wake of the social holiday.

“All across the nation COVID-19 restrictions are loosening and we hope to be able to do the same,” NOLA Public Schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. said in the release. “In a couple of weeks, we will know more about how our city fared post Mardi Gras, and we will continue to urge our families to get vaccinated and take appropriate health measures as recommended by the CDC to continue to stay safe.”

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...