The Washoe County Health District is recommending not reopening schools in the Washoe County School District (WCSD) to students due to high risk of COVID-19 transmission and instead recommends the continuation of distance learning.
District Health Officer Kevin Dick gave the recommendation to the Washoe County District Board of Health on Thursday, a recording of which can be found here.
“I can’t recommend reopening schools physically in Washoe County due to the high potential for increased spread of disease that exists,” Dick said. “Due to the risk of infection, the upward trend in new cases since July 12 and criteria set at the state and federal level, distance learning is the safest path forward at this time. Due to the elevated level of disease transmission currently occurring in Washoe County, our fear is the high potential of the virus spreading to students and faculty, and eventually to our vulnerable populations, where the fatality rate is much higher.”
The recommendations are based off two criteria: Nevada’s COVID-19 Elevated Disease Transmission Tracker for counties and the designation of Washoe County as a yellow zone by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. California is using similar criteria for determining if schools should reopen.
The Governor’s Disease Transmission Tracker flags Nevada counties for elevated disease transmission if two of the three categories are met:
- Average number of tests per day is fewer than 150 per 100,000
- Case rate is greater than 100 per 100,000 over last 14 days
- Case rate is greater than 25 per 100,000 and testing positivity is greater than 7 percent
Washoe County exceeds criteria for the second and third categories. Washoe County’s new case rate is 190.8 over the last 14 days, which is more than 90 cases over the 100-case threshold.
The White House Task Force recently put Washoe County in the “Yellow Zone” designation for COVID-19 transmission and recommended further restrictions on gatherings to be no more than 25, which could be in conflict with WCSD class sizes.
The District Health Officer, however, is only recommending that students not return to school, but believes that teachers should be able to return to school to conduct distance learning curriculum. The Health Officer’s recommendation is based on the exceedance of the Governor’s thresholds and subject to change if the thresholds are achieved.
“The safety of the children and staff will always factor into my public health recommendations,” Dick said. “The Health District will stay in close communication with School District to monitor and assess the COVID-19 situation as it relates to schools reopening.”
The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees will be responsible for making a decision on school reopening during their July 28 Board of Trustees Meeting.