Indiana schools buckling under weight of eye-popping new record for COVID-19 cases

Students are dismissed from buses, returning from summer break Monday, July 26, 2021, at Southport Middle School in Indianapolis. Perry Township Schools have returned to full-time in-person learning. Mask-wearing is optional for students, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
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Indiana schools didn't just report a record number of new COVID-19 cases last week — they blew past it. Twice.

Schools reported 15,485 cases among students — more than doubling the record set last week. They also reported more than 1,000 cases in both teachers and staff members for the first time. There were 1,137 cases reported among teachers and 1,471 in other staff members. The state's dashboard for cases in schools is updated weekly, reporting information for the previous week.

Some of the cases reported Monday dated back several weeks, but more than 13,000 of the student cases were attributed to last week. It's another example of just how contagious omicron, the latest COVID-19 variant, has been.

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While omicron does appear to cause milder infections than some earlier variants, the rapid increase in cases is making it difficult for schools to stay open. At least five Marion County districts and several others in the Indianapolis metro area shifted one or more schools to virtual learning last week due to staffing shortages.

So far this school year, there have been 84,301 cases reported in students. It's likely that, within the next several weeks, more than 10% of the state's schoolchildren will have reported a positive case of COVID-19 this school year. Also this year, teachers have reported 5,367 cases and other staff members have reported another 7,744 cases.

The figures are also likely an undercount of what has actually been happening in the state's schools over the last year-and-a-half.

While most schools reported to the state dashboard last year, it was not required and some never participated. The reporting is mandatory this year, but hundreds of schools have yet to comply. As of Monday's update, 405 schools have yet to report data to the state this school year.

The prior peak in cases for Hoosier students came in early September, at the height of the previous surge.

Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at 317-201-5620 or email her at Arika.Herron@indystar.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: COVID in Indiana schools: Cases last week double previous record

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