COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – For most of this K-12 school year, the percentages of COVID-19 cases among students versus staff were relatively consistent.
But once school employees – like teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff – became eligible to get vaccinated, the numbers started to shift… dramatically.
Gov. Mike DeWine made vaccinations available to school staff on Feb. 1, a time when only health care workers, the elderly and the most vulnerable people were eligible. The deal offered to schools was this: promise to return to hybrid or fully in-person learning by March 1, and your staff members can get vaccinated.
The agreement was a success, as all but one school (Jefferson Township Local Schools) opted in and only a handful of school districts didn’t make the March 1 deadline.
And according to a WCMH analysis of weekly school case data, early vaccinations for school employees were a success for them personally, too.
When staff members became eligible for vaccines on Feb. 1, they made up 29% of the previous week’s COVID-19 cases in schools, compared to 71% for students. But less than two months later, the percentage of school cases for the week ending March 21 was just 2.75%.
The percentage for staff members stayed below 20% until early May, reaching a low of 2.51% for the week ending April 4. It ticked up to 27.8% by mid-May but was 11.51% for the week ending May 23.
The Ohio Department of Health releases weekly school case numbers on Thursdays, and cases reflect the previous Monday through Sunday. Infections were caught in and out of school.
Ohio schools reported just 964 new coronavirus cases last week, and only 111 were school employees. Staff saw their lowest number of cases during the week ending April 4, registering just 20 compared to 797 student cases.
School cases started the academic year at 61.76% staff cases and are now at 68.02%.
Gov. DeWine last Monday said a contributor to decreasing school cases has also been schools following state health orders.
“I can only say that our schools have been phenomenally successful in keeping down spread in the classroom,” he said in a coronavirus briefing. “They have done this by wearing masks.”
When state health orders lift on Wednesday, it will be up to individual school districts to decide on policies such as masks and social distancing.