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Cuyahoga County sees sharp spike in COVID-19 cases in the community and in schools

Health experts say if you think that schools are not a significant source of spread, the new data shows that is no longer the case.

CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio — Cuyahoga County has reported a record surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the last week, recording about 1,000 new cases on Sunday alone.

"If that's not going to be a shocker to us, I don't know what's going to be," said Suzanne Hrusch, who tracks coronavirus data at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH). The department released stunning new data on the percentage of hospital Covid-19 tests that are coming back positive. While the number of tests being performed is increasing, the positivity rate has skyrocketed in 3 weeks. During the week of October 25, the rate stood at 9.3-percent. By November 8, the last week of available data, the positivity rate jumped to 20.5-percent. Those testing positive are also younger. 21-percent of people who are now infected with coronavirus are in the 20-29 age group.

RELATED: COVID-19 in Ohio: State reports new record of 11,885 new cases in last 24 hours

"Across the board in our county, we're seeing spread, so it was only a matter of time until we saw it in schools, and now we're spiking," said Hrusch. The CCBH reports 640 Covid cases across 86 school buildings in the county, with a sudden surge in the last week.

RELATED: City of Cleveland surpasses 10,000 total reported COVID-19 cases

"Since September 7th, since we've been tracking [coronavirus in schools], 45-percent of our student cases, and 40-percent of our staff cases have come in, in the last week. So almost half in the last week. That's a huge spike," said Hrusch.

In Olmsted Falls, schools are seeing a handful of student cases. However Superintendent Jim Lloyd told 3News that "as cases of Covid-19 increase in our region, it is impacting districts at the local level. Staff members contracting Covid is a challenge, but so are those who come in close contact with those who have it."

As of Monday, 24 teachers and 31 school support employees were out for Covid-related absences -- about 10-percent of the district's staff. The district is still planning to return to hybrid in-person learning after the Thanksgiving holiday.

County health officials like Hrusch bristled at that notion, adding that while it is a district's right to return to school buildings, the new data on coronavirus spread in the community and in schools should compel districts to reconsider.

"Right now, the best thing is to be remote," said Hrusch. 

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