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Cuyahoga County Board of Health recommends schools start year with remote learning; no sports or other extracurricular activities

The CCBH says due to the 'elevated risk posed to students, staff, and family members,' schools should begin remotely.

CLEVELAND — The Cuyahoga County Board of Health (CCBH) has released its recommendations for the reopening of the county's schools for the 2020-21 year amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The CCBH is advising the schools in Cuyahoga County begin the 2020-21 school year operating remotely due to the elevated health risk posed to students, staff and family members.

They are also recommending that schools discontinue extracurriculars such as sports, band, theater, choir and other activities during the remote learning period.

"Weighing all of these challenges, we believe this approach will allow both school administrators and public health officials to continue to assess the risk level for community disease transmission on a weekly basis and assist in creating the safest possible environments for students, staff and their families," the board wrote in a release that was put out on Thursday.

CCBH says in its conversations about COVID-19 activity in Cuyahoga County, the following critical factors have been repeatedly analyzed and considered:

  • Average number of daily cases – this number more than tripled between mid-June and mid-July
  • Community capacity to test children – this is currently very limited
  • Hospital activity – they continue to experience increasing levels of outpatient visits and hospitalizations, including intensive care admissions, related to COVID-19
  • Non-congregate settings - a high percentage of recent cases have occurred in non-congregate settings
  • Number of cases – local activity has been identified as being in the “high incidence” category by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Ohio Public Health Advisory System – Cuyahoga County is currently rated as Level 3/Red. Only Level 4/Purple is higher in terms of risk for transmission of COVID-19
  • Positivity rates as shown by testing – these have been climbing over the last month
  • School-related settings - CCBH has investigated multiple reports of clusters of cases in sports and other “return to play” activities

CCBH says sports competitions and other extracurricular activities may not be conducive to the use of protective measures like social distancing or the use of facial coverings during participation. Additionally, activities such as band, theater and choir also have the potential to increase transmission through spread of respiratory droplets.

"Without the implementation of these primary prevention strategies, the potential for COVID-19 transmission between athletes, trainers and coaching staff dramatically increases. Transmission that may occur in these settings has the potential to spread elsewhere in the general community," the CCBH says, adding that data indicates that the current level of community transmission of COVID-19 is 'significant.' 

On Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that Cuyahoga County remained at Level 3 (red) -- the second-highest level on the state's four-level health advisory map. DeWine noted that while there are less red (Level 3) counties than there were last week, there are now more counties that have moved from Level 1 (yellow) to Level 2 (Orange). The governor said that while the use of masks has helped slow the spread of the coronavirus in urban areas, the virus is beginning to become more widespread in rural areas.

Additionally on Thursday, DeWine announced that he is calling on the Ohio Liquor Control Commission to call a meeting to consider enacting an emergency rule related to liquor sales amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The rule would require restaurants to end liquor sales at 10 p.m. each night and for the consumption of any alcohol to end by 11 p.m. 

DeWine also updated the state's order and guidance regarding mass gatherings of 10 people. In doing so, he said that any county at Level 3 or higher should limit its gatherings as much as possible.