NOLA Public Schools' West Bank headquarters. (Marta Jewson/The Lens) Credit: Marta Jewson / The Lens

The NOLA Public Schools district is tracking 49 cases of COVID-19 among staff and students, the district reported Monday evening.

While cases remain low overall, especially compared to past surges, this is the second week in a row of significantly rising case numbers. Last week the district reported 27 cases, an increase from the two cases reported the week prior. 

Earlier this month, the district began relying on case data submitted by schools to the Louisiana Department of Health. Previously, schools had been separately reporting their numbers directly to the district. 

The most recent data — from the week of April 11-17 — published by the Louisiana Department of Health reported 33 cases from 13 schools in Orleans Parish. Unlike the NOLA Public Schools district, which reports case counts by school, state reports only show the parish total and can include private schools and state-run charter schools, along with district schools.

For the first time in several weeks, the state’s report indicated that case numbers in the New Orleans area were current. In four of the state’s nine health regions outside of the area, however, the majority of the reported cases were diagnosed more than a month ago. 

Of the district’s 49 reported cases, 32 are in students, with 17 cases among staff from nine campuses. The majority of cases, 28, are from Lusher Charter School’s two campuses. (The school’s governing board recently voted to change its name to The Willow School. However, as of Tuesday morning, the name still appears as “Lusher Charter School” on the school website and in NOLA Public Schools’ COVID-19 data reporting.)

Cases in the city have also increased in recent weeks. According to city data, Orleans Parish is averaging 50 new cases of COVID-19 each day with a test positivity rate of 1.9 percent.

The district reported facilitating 8,303 tests over the past week with a test positivity rate of .4 percent. That equates to about 33 cases, rather than the 49 that appeared in the report. However, the district report includes all “active” cases, those reported in the previous two weeks. And some of the current cases may have been diagnosed at a setting other than district schools or testing events. 

In recent weeks, though, the district reported a lower active case count than what its testing positivity numbers suggested. Last week’s report showed that it conducted 10,951 tests with a positivity rate of .49 percent. That should indicate 53 cases, rather than the 27 it reported. The week prior the district reported conducting 17,047 tests with a positivity rate of .19 percent. That should translate to 32 cases, not the two that were reported. 

Asked last week about those apparent discrepancies, district officials did not provide a clear answer.

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...