Dolsy Riley, 9, arrives for the first day back to school Thursday, August 12, 2021, at Myrtle Place Elementary in Lafayette, La.

In less than two months, schools in Lafayette Parish have recorded more than 1,000 student COVID-19 cases, a threshold that took until the final week of February to reach last school year, according to Louisiana Department of Health data.

On Wednesday, in LDH’s weekly school reporting update, schools in Lafayette Parish logged 124 more reported student COVID-19 cases, bringing the total student cases for the school year to 1,058.

Cases are grouped by parish, without specifying which school site or school type the cases came from. Public, private and charter schools are mandated to report case numbers to LDH under an ongoing emergency order. The reports are released on Wednesdays and compile the cases reported between the prior Monday through Sunday.

Lafayette was one of five parishes whose schools have crossed over the 1,000-case threshold among students this school year.

Wednesday’s report showed St. Tammany Parish had logged 1,901 student cases, Orleans Parish has reached 1,133 student cases, Rapides Parish hit 1,074 student cases and Livingston Parish reported 1,022 total student cases for the year.

Student cases are not necessarily caused by spread within schools, with unmasked, non-school gatherings among students contributing to spread. Whether originating in the school or not, student cases impact the learning environment because of required quarantines and lost in-person instructional time, school leaders say.

The increase in reported student cases illustrates medical professionals’ warnings that the Delta variant is infecting more children and spreading more rapidly through younger patients.

Lafayette pediatricians Dr. Derek Baumbouree and Dr. Adrienne Musumeche spoke to The Acadiana Advocate in August about seeing more COVID-19 infections among their patients during the state’s fourth coronavirus wave than at any other time. They warned that families and schools should utilize all available mitigation measures to stop the spread, and parents should have their eligible children vaccinated to protect them from the virus.

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The increase in student cases is not limited to Lafayette; schools in other Acadiana parishes are also outpacing last year’s COVID-19 case numbers.

Acadia, Evangeline and Vermilion parishes have already surpassed the total number of COVID-19 cases recorded among students last school year. On Wednesday, the parishes reached 349 cases, 355 cases and 513 student cases to date, respectively.

Last year, in the final report of the school year released June 2, Acadia Parish had 279 cumulative student cases, Evangeline Parish had 246 cumulative student cases and Vermilion Parish had 310 cumulative student cases.

Schools in St. Landry and St. Martin parishes are also tracking ahead of last year.

St. Landry’s schools have reported 189 student cases so far this year, a threshold that was reached by early January last school year, and St. Martin has reported 221 student cases this school year, a level reached by mid-March in the 2020-2021 year.

It’s difficult to know how many schools the cases are spread across and whether all parish schools are participating in the reporting program based on LDH’s reports. Each week the health agency lists the number of schools that reported one or more cases for the given week; the number of schools does not include schools that reported zero cases, an agency spokesperson said in August.

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