ACA.firstday.002.081321

Students walk into the school for their first day back to class Thursday, August 12, 2021, at Myrtle Place Elementary in Lafayette, La.

Schools in Lafayette Parish reported their second-highest week of COVID-19 cases among students last week, even as fewer schools are potentially reporting data to the state.

Between Aug. 16 and Sunday, schools in Lafayette Parish reported 167 student cases of COVID-19 to the Louisiana Department of Health, just three cases behind the highest-ever week of reported student COVID-19 cases in early January. The count does not specify whether the cases came from public, private or charter schools, all of which are mandated to report to the state.

The higher case numbers coincide with waves of the virus statewide; the third wave peaked in early January while the state is still weathering the fourth wave, which has been driven by spread of the delta variant.

A key difference between the large case numbers in January and now is the number of schools potentially reporting data to the state. In January, 65 Lafayette Parish schools were enrolled in the state’s reporting program. This week, only 43 schools were listed as reporting cases to the state health department.

It’s unclear how wide the participation gap may be.

Last school year, the state health agency’s weekly reports listed the number of schools enrolled in the reporting system in a given week, without specifying whether all enrolled schools submitted reports that week or not. It’s unclear how many schools were enrolled, but not participating last year. At peak enrollment, Lafayette Parish had 85 schools enrolled in the reporting system.

This year, the state health agency is releasing how many schools report data in a given week. An LDH spokesperson said schools reporting zero cases in a given week are not included among the number of schools reporting.

Top stories in Acadiana in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

LDH began releasing data on COVID-19 cases in schools by parish in mid-October as a subset of their outbreaks page. The state health agency issued a September emergency order requiring all Pre-K-12 public, private and charter schools to report positive COVID-19 cases among students and on-campus adults to a centralized database, which provides weekly reports to the public.

The order is in effect until officially rescinded by the health department. LDH paused case reporting in June while schools were out for summer, then resumed data collection in mid-August. The first COVID-19 data report of the new school year was released Aug. 18.

Lafayette’s student case numbers ranked among the highest in the state, coming in 10th behind East Baton Rouge, Washington, Lafourche, Ascension, Livingston, Terrebonne, Jefferson, St. Tammany and Orleans parishes. Orleans had the most reported student cases, with 395 cases reported last week.

Lafayette Parish reported 28 COVID-19 cases among teachers, staff and adult volunteers between Aug. 16 and Sunday, the fourth highest case count in the state behind Tangipahoa with 29 cases, Orleans with 34 cases and St. Tammany with 41 cases.

Last school year, the highest number of adult cases reported in Lafayette Parish schools in one week was 68 cases, logged from Jan. 4 to Jan. 10, according to the LDH outbreaks page.


Email Katie Gagliano at kgagliano@theadvocate.com