AKRON, Ohio — Summit County Public Health is "strongly recommending" all K-12 schools begin the upcoming academic year by holding all classes remotely, the agency stated in guidelines released Monday.
In making the case for online learning, SCPH cited a sustained rise in coronavirus case numbers throughout the county as well as CDC evidence that reopening school buildings could cause that number to spike even higher. According to officials, Summit's average number of COVID-19 cases per day has nearly doubled from 24 at the start of July to 45 now, although that figure has dropped somewhat in recent days.
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"SCPH understands the importance of students being in school for their academic advancement, social development, and well-being," the agency said in a statement. "However, these are unprecedented and uncertain times. The novel Covid-19 virus continues to pose a significant risk to our students, teachers, staff and the community."
Although healthy children are at the lowest risk for developing complications from the virus, they are not immune, and 271 of Summit County's more than 3,500 cases are people under the age of 20. In addition, SCPH says it has investigated "multiple" potential outbreaks linked to sports practices, which could put high school football in doubt.
These measures are not an order as individual districts are currently being tasked with making their own decisions, with Akron Public Schools deciding on its own to start remotely two weeks ago. However, SCPH will continue to monitor trends, and offered these guidelines as to what should happen for in-person schooling to resume:
- A sustained decline in Summit County COVID-19 cases over a four to six-week period
- A move to a Level 1 "yellow" COVID-19 alert in Ohio's Public Health Advisory System (Summit County is currently at Level 2, and has been as high as Level 3)
- Increased testing capacity for children
- A decrease in hospitalizations, a marker for community spread
Cuyahoga County preceded Summit weeks ago in calling for schools to conduct classes online, and also recommended fall sports be canceled or postponed. So far, several districts have heeded their warning on classes, while North Royalton canceled its athletic events.
Summit County Health Commissioner Donna Skoda plans to hold a press conference at 1 p.m. Monday. In the meantime, you can ready the agency's full report below: