JoCo health officials say data doesn’t support in-person learning

Posted at 3:28 PM, Aug 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-18 16:33:54-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — While the decision to return to school – open with a hybrid option or offer completely virtual learning – will be up to each Johnson County, Kansas, school district, the decision is pretty clear to officials at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

In a letter to Johnson County families that was released as part of a meeting between JCDHE officials and leaders of the counties school districts, JCDHE Director Dr. Sanmi Areola said the county has not met the threshold in the school gating criteria “for a safe return to in-person learning, even under a hybrid model.”

“Our responsibility to lead efforts to promote and improve the health of every member of this county is one we take seriously,” Areola said.

READ: Letter to Johnson County families

Areola said after receiving a request from several districts, county health officials developed gating criteria schools could use as a guide to make decisions on when to return to in-person or hybrid learning, or return to all virtual.

That criteria looks at the 14-day moving average of the COVID-19 positivity rate, the number of new cases per day and the number of new cases per 100,000 residents.

“The risk is less to open schools when community transmission is low," Areola wrote. "Currently, our community transmission continues to increase. No matter how the data is presented, the level of transmission of COVID-19 in the county is too high.”

Areola said the number of new COVID-19 cases increased from 629 per week to 740 per week over the past two weeks, which represents 120 new cases per 100,000 residents. As of Monday afternoon, the county’s 14-day rolling positivity rate stood at 11.4%.

MORE: Johnson County School gating criteria

Earlier this summer, many Johnson County School Districts announced they would delay the start of school until Sept. 8. It will now be up to those districts to use the data and recommendations from JCDHE to determine what type of first day their students will have.