Three weeks into the new semester and students’ return to class, coronavirus cases among school-aged children in Scott County remain low.
Since Jan. 1, Scott County has had 38 cases of Covid-19 among children ages five to 18, according to data made available by the TN Dept. of Health. That represents 13% of all new cases of coronavirus reported in Scott County since Jan. 1 — or about the percentage of cases that the 5-18 age group made up prior to the start of the school year in August.
Of course, schools have likely not been back in session long enough for the coronavirus case numbers to show a difference — if a return to school were going to trigger an increase in cases. Scott County students returned to school on Jan. 4, but on a phase-in schedule that saw most students in class just one day that first week. Oneida students did not return to class until Jan. 11.
Tuesday, Jan. 19, marked the first day that all students in Scott County — in both school systems — have been in class at the same time. And the incubation period for coronavirus tends to be several days.
Meanwhile, many health experts continue to feel that there isn’t a link between in-person education and outbreaks of coronavirus. A study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention earlier this month showed no significant difference in case numbers between communities with in-person schooling and communities where students were attending school virtually, and the agency’s Covid-19 Emergency Response Team has recommended that schools be the last to close amid an outbreak.
In Scott County, covid cases in the 5-18 age group, as a percentage of all covid cases in the community, rose slowly after school began in August, topping out at 19% of all cases during the month of December. However, two weeks after schools went virtual in December and then closed for Christmas break, the 5-18 age group continued to make up 17% of Scott County’s covid cases — not a significant difference.
Directors of both local school systems said throughout the fall semester that actual covid cases among students were relatively low, with the biggest disruptions caused by quarantines rather than actual illness. Students and staff who are determined to have been within six feet of a sick person for a cumulative 15 minutes throughout the day are required to quarantine.
For the week ending Saturday, there were 11 new cases of coronavirus reported among youth ages five to 18 in Scott County, which was 18% of the total number of new cases reported during that time frame. That’s a far higher percentage than the month as a whole, but the sample size is quite small; there were only 61 new cases of coronavirus reported in Scott County for the week, and two-thirds of those were probable cases. The Dept. of Health has not provided sufficient clarification on what constitutes a probable case, though it is known that antigen — or rapid — tests that return positive are counted as probable cases.
Cases continue to decline
Meanwhile, new cases of coronavirus continue to decline in Scott County. The 61 new cases reported for the week ending Saturday was down from 83 the previous week, and 105 the week before that.
The number of active cases of the virus in Scott County stood at 129 as of Saturday, nearly 25% fewer than one week earlier and down more than 60% from one month earlier.
Testing positivity is also declining. For the week ending Saturday, only 12% of tests returned positive in Scott County. While that number remains above the CDC’s 10% threshold, it is an indication that levels of illness within the community continue to decline. A much higher level of testing positivity would suggest that the total cases might be dropping only because there isn’t sufficient testing being conducted to fully determine the rate of covid infections.
For the 72-hour period ending Saturday, testing positivity was only 8%.
The Dept. of Health did report a new coronavirus-related death and hospitalization in Scott County on Friday, bringing those totals to 32 and 47, respectively. Friday’s report were the first death or hospitalization to be reported locally in over a week.