Schools across Central Texas fight COVID-19 infections as health officials consider increasing restrictions

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Local health officials say if COVID-19 cases keep rising, we’ll need to return to stage 4 restrictions. Austin Public Health says cases have gone up 60% in just the last week.

Some people have shared they’re worried about how that increase is affecting schools.

The Manor Independent School District announced new positive cases Tuesday at Manor High School and the central office. The district has now reported COVID-19 infections at seven campuses and one facility in 11 days.

In Del Valle, every student at Baty Elementary and Del Valle High will learn virtually until after Thanksgiving due to recent COVID-19 cases on campus. That’ll require a special waiver from TEA to do so.

Despite these preparations, Austin-Travis County Interim Health Authority Dr. Mark Escott said families with children on campus shouldn’t be worried.

“Some may be alarmed that we had more than 100 cases at schools, but its important to keep in mind that this involves 73 schools,” Dr. Escott said. “We are not seeing transmission happening in classroom spaces. I think this is a testament to the efficacy of the protections that are put in place by our school districts.”

Some Austin Independent School District employees are still concerned, saying the district is painting an optimistic picture to the public.

“I think that optic-wise, the reason that we are all being required to go back face-to-face is to give this illusion that it is safe. And I don’t know that it is,” the employee said.

In Dr. Escott’s weekly report, he showed a breakdown of positive cases districts are reporting to Austin Public Health. Eanes ISD had only three fewer cases than AISD between Oct. 26 and Nov. 8 despite having approximately 73,000 fewer students.

An Eanes ISD spokesperson said the district has had in-person schooling open for longer, and it has a higher percentage of students back on campus—60% compared to AISD’s 27%.

Dr. Escott said the majority of cases that are occurring within these school districts continues to come from visiting with family and friends or from extracurricular activities.

AISD will begin rapid testing on Wednesday, providing 15 minute COVID-19 tests for symptomatic students and staff. Virtual students at AISD can also sign up to get a rapid test. Familes are asked to speak to the schools’ health department to receive a drive-up test.

Reach KXAN’s Education Reporter Alex Caprariello by email at alexc@kxan.com or by phone at 512-703-5365, or find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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