New cases of COVID-19 have surged to new single-week highs in Johnson County public school districts since students and staff returned from Thanksgiving break.
The increase in cases in schools mirrors trends across Johnson County and the broader Kansas City region.
On Wednesday, the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment reported the incidence rate of new cases to be 368 per 100,000 residents and percent positivity at 11.4.%.
Both those numbers rival figures last reported in Johnson County in early January when mass vaccination efforts were just getting underway.
“The district continues to monitor the situation on a daily basis,” Alvie Cater, assistant superintendent for USD 232 in De Soto, told the Post via email. “An increase in cases was not unexpected given the circumstances within the community at large.”
Cater said USD 232 is unaware of any severe cases of COVID-19 among students.
That also appears to be the case in Blue Valley. District spokesperson Kaci Brutto said she hadn’t heard of any.
“There are schools that seem to have popped up and have an increase in numbers,” she said, “but I haven’t heard of a specific school that has been hit hard or how sick the kids are getting.”
JCDHE’s COVID-19 dashboard shows that people 19 and younger have made up 22% of all COVID-19 cases in Johnson County during the pandemic but only 3% of hospitalizations and just 1% of ICU admissions.
At the same time, vaccination rates for teenagers and children have steadily inched up. JCDHE reports 25.5% residents 17 and younger have been fully vaccinated.
All this comes as public school districts in Johnson County have rolled back mask rules for older students, even as a countywide public health order requiring masks in younger grades remains in effect.
Blue Valley, Olathe and USD 232 have all made masks optional in high schools.
Meanwhile, schools say they continue to emphasize physical distancing among students when possible and regular sanitization of classrooms and facilities.
Here are the latest key metrics from each major public school district serving northern Johnson County:
The district last updated its COVID-19 dashboard for the period spanning Nov. 23 to Dec. 1. At that time, the district reported 95 students had tested positive for COVID-19, a one-week high for the year.
For the same period, Blue Valley reported 75 students and staff in quarantine a decrease from 125 the week before.
The 95 positive cases represents roughly .04% of the district’s total student population.
Meanwhile, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reports that 8,862 students within the bounds of the Blue Valley School District have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a rate of nearly 380 per 1,000 students.
For the period Nov. 29 through Dec. 2, Olathe Schools’ COVID-19 dashboard reported 184 students had tested positive for COVID-19, a one-week high for the year.
For the same period, Olathe reported 337 students in quarantine, an increase from 157 the week before Thanksgiving.
The 184 positive cases represents roughly .06% of the district’s total student population.
KDHE reports that 11,042 students within the bounds of the Olathe School District have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a rate of about 360 per 1,000 students.
For the week ending Dec. 3, Shawnee Mission’s COVID-19 dashboard reported 160 students in “active exclusion,” which includes both positive and presumed positive cases.
That is a single-week high for the district and an increase from the 54 cases reported the week before Thanksgiving break.
The majority of current active exclusions — 110 students — are elementary students, according to the district’s dashboard. Another 19 exclusions are middle schoolers and an additional 31 are in high school.
The 160 exclusions represent roughly .06% of the district’s total student population.
Shawnee Mission is the only Johnson County public school district with a universal mask rule for all grade levels still in place, though masks will become optional for middle and high school students at the start of the winter semester in January.
KDHE reports that 11,770 students within the bounds of the Shawnee Mission School District have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a rate of about 396 per 1,000 students.
USD 232 De Soto
For the week ending Dec. 3, USD 232’s COVID-19-dashboard reported 54 students recommended for isolation, meaning they either tested positive or are presumed positive.
That is a one-week high for the district and an increase from the 23 cases reported during the shortened three-day week leading into Thanksgiving.
In addition, 53 other students are recommended for quarantine currently, which means they have come into close contact with a positive case.
The 54 students who have tested positive represent .07% of the student population of 7,346, according to the district’s dashboard.
KDHE reports that 2,713 students within the bounds of the De Soto School District have been vaccinated against COVID-19, a rate of about 368 per 1,000 students.
Editor’s Note: An updated version of this story makes clearer that KDHE’s vaccination numbers entail all students living within the boundaries of a given district and do not reflect the exact number of vaccinated students enrolled in a district.