COVID-19 outbreaks in schools propel surge in new cases

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Students and staff in two Linn County school districts were forced to quarantine after a large number of students tested positive for COVID-19. (Stock photo)

PLEASANTON – The Linn County Health Department is reporting that 70 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Linn County between Aug. 22 and Sept. 1, according to Tisha Coleman, Linn County Health Department director.

The weekly update posted on Wednesday, Sept. 1, showed 55 new cases, however, additional cases initially deemed probable had positive results. That makes the fifth week in a row that the number of new cases topped 50, and total confirmed cases in the county now stands at more than 1,213.

It is also the highest number of new cases recorded in a week since the pandemic began in early spring 2020. The highest number of cases in a week prior to that was 67 early this year, Coleman said.

The new cases bring the total of active cases to 104 on Sept. 1, down from 116 the previous week.

One person, a Linn Valley resident, died from the disease. That person was in the 65- to 74-years-old age range. That brings the death toll from the virus to 17. That means that 1.4 percent of the residents who have had a positive test have died.

According to the results published on the county’s website, four residents are hospitalized, although none are in an intensive-care unit or on a ventilator. The total hospitalized since the pandemic began is 77, or 6.3 percent of those receiving a positive test.

Mound City continued to have the most active cases with 30. La Cygne had the second highest number of active cases at 15. Pleasanton, Parker and Prescott had 10 cases each, Linn Valley and Blue Mound had six each and Centerville had three.

Nearly half of the active cases were in children 17 years old and younger.

Both Jayhawk USD 346 and Prairie View USD362 had confirmed cases during the week and were considered clusters. Jayhawk-Linn Junior/Senior High School and Jayhawk Elementary School in Mound City suspended Monday classes and weekend activities following the outbreak. Classes there resumed on Tuesday.

Prairie View did not close any schools.

Coleman said on Thursday, Sept. 2, that more than 300 students and staff members were in quarantine in both districts combined because of exposure to someone who tested positive for the virus. She said that more than 95 percent of those people chose to do the in-school quarantine.

Under the test-to-stay modified quarantine protocol that the health department and school districts have adopted, exposed students and staff can continue to be in the classroom if they have a negative test for COVID-19 and are required to wear a mask.

The in-school quarantine was modified by both school districts to require only one COVID-19 test per week instead of a test daily. The alternative to the modified quarantine is the full quarantine, being out of school for 10 days.

Travis Laver, superintendent of Pleasanton USD 344, said on Tuesday that since school began last week, there had been no outbreaks. However, he did not rule out the likelihood of it in his district.

"That doesn't mean all the wheels won't fall off tomorrow, but so far all the lug nuts are on tight," he said.

The health department reports that there are 27 confirmed cases of the Delta variant, although officials there believe almost all current cases are a result of that variant.

The number of Linn County residents continues to climb slowly. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) reports that 37.7 percent of residents 12 and older have received a complete vaccine series.

Nearly 43 percent of residents 12 and older have received at least one vaccination.

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