(The Center Square) – The number of reported cases of COVID-19 tied to K-12 schools holding in-person classes has been “fairly encouraging,” a Louisiana health official said Thursday.
“Thankfully, we are not seeing large centers of transmission in the K-12 environment that some people feared,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter with the state Office of Public Health.
State officials report 495 COVID-19 cases among students and 1,063 among faculty and staff as of Wednesday.
“Those are not numbers to ignore, but they have not been indicative to us of massive spread,” he said.
Most cases have been tied to extracurricular activities rather than class time, he added.
Kanter credited school staff, teachers and administrators for taking precautions to control the spread of the new coronavirus. He said the health department’s “early warning system,” which about two-thirds of schools have chosen to use, helps schools track and mitigate outbreaks.
Louisiana officials reported 823 new cases of COVID-19 and 12 new deaths on Thursday; 566 patients were in hospitals. At least 5,507 Louisiana residents with the illness have died.
Edwards said the case counts and hospitalization numbers basically have “plateaued” in recent weeks.
“We’re not at a great place,” he said. “We’re not getting worse … Our numbers haven’t depressed down to where we hoped they would be at this time.”
The lower the numbers get, the easier it is to absorb a surge if it happens, he said. He urged residents to get a flu shot, noting that a severe flu season combined with COVID-19 could put serious stress on the state’s health care system.
He credited the mitigation measures such as limiting crowd sizes, restricting business capacity and requiring face coverings in public spaces for keeping the pandemic under control, and said he was opposed to measures currently pending in the Legislature that would strip him of those tools.
Members of the Legislature’s Republican majority have proposed numerous measures to restrict or eliminate Edwards’ ability to impose mandates in the name of the public health emergency, citing the economic and social costs of the restrictions.
David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for The Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.