COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – As new coronavirus cases continue a slight trend downward, and as K-12 school staff prepare for their first vaccinations, Ohio schools this week reported another relatively low increase in new cases compared with the state’s peak earlier this month.

The Ohio Department of Health on Thursday reported 3,899 new cases of COVID-19 among K-12 students and staff members. The data reflects the week ending last Sunday and includes cases contracted in school and in public.

This week’s increase in cases is only 206 more than last week’s increase, and it’s still a fraction of the record 6,535 new cases reported two weeks ago.

Cumulative COVID-19 cases reported by Ohio schools:

  • Sept. 17: 319
  • Sept. 24: 739 (+420)
  • Oct. 1: 1,274 (+535)
  • Oct. 8: 1,870 (+596)
  • Oct. 15: 2,739 (+869)
  • Oct. 22: 3,826 (+1,087)
  • Oct. 29: 5,058 (+1,232)
  • Nov. 5: 7,068 (+2,010)
  • Nov. 12: 9,876 (+2,808)
  • Nov. 19: 14,593 (+4,717)
  • Nov. 26: 19,302 (+4,709)
  • Dec. 3: 23,052 (+3,750)
  • Dec. 10: 28,218 (+5,166)
  • Dec. 17: 33,499 (+5,281)
  • Dec. 24: 36,547 (+3,048)
  • Dec. 31: Data largely discrepant, likely due to lack of reporting over holidays
  • Jan. 7: 37,681 (+1,134 over two weeks)
  • Jan. 14: 44,216 (+6,535)
  • Jan. 21: 48,009 (+3,793)
  • Jan. 28: 51,908 (+3,899)

Schools report cases among students and staff to ODH on Tuesdays, reflecting the week ending on the previous Sunday. ODH releases numbers on Thursdays at 2 p.m.

Case criteria

  • Full-time or part-time students and staff who have tested positive for or been diagnosed with COVID-19. Infections were caught in and out of school.
  • Staff members include teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff.
  • Excludes students/staff who are completely remote, but includes them if they were “on-site” while infectious.

  • ODH reports “new” and “cumulative” cases. Cases only move over to “cumulative” once the person is no longer COVID-positive. NBC4’s count of new cases every week reflects the change in “cumulative” cases. More info

    1,484 (53%) of 2,774 schools, districts, private schools, vocational schools, preschools and other non-college institutions that the state tracks have reported cases. That is just 19 more schools than last week.

    32,439 (62%) of Ohio’s school cases are students and 19,469 (38%) are staff members, which include teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff.

    Cincinnati Public Schools, a district of more than 36,000 students, leads the state with 839 cases. Five Columbus area school districts are in the top seven.

    Vaccinations start next week

    As new coronavirus cases trend down in Ohio since the holidays, nearly 92% of Ohio’s public school districts are learning either fully in person or in a hybrid model, according to the Ohio Department of Education. That includes just over 8 in 10 students.

    Gov. Mike DeWine called the movement away from fully remote learning “a good sign” at his Thursday coronavirus briefing.

    On Monday, staff from about 500 schools, public and private, will begin receiving vaccinations in accordance with DeWine’s plan of getting school staff vaccinated if a school commits to hybrid or fully in-person learning after March 1.

    Any adult who works in the school is eligible, including teachers, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, food service staff and more.

    All but one public school district, Jefferson Township Local Schools near Dayton, has signed on to that plan. The fifth-smallest district in the state with 276 students, Jefferson Township has been fully remote since March.

    Superintendent Richard Gates sent a letter to families saying the district believes “100% virtual instruction is the most practical course of action” because of COVID-19 spread in the area, according to the Dayton Daily News.

    Because of the limited supply of vaccines, schools’ vaccinations will begin over the course of the next four weeks.

    “This plan that we have will allow most of the K-12 staff in a county to be vaccinated within seven days,” DeWine said. “The goal is to make the logistics of this as easy as possible locally to maximize the capacity of local vaccination partners.”

    The governor added that he expects roughly 55,000 vaccines allotted for school staff per week.

    In central Ohio, schools in Franklin, Delaware and Athens counties are among those that start Monday, and DeWine said that remaining schools will be notified of their start dates on Friday.

    One of the DeWine administration’s top reasons for putting staff at the front of the vaccine line so schools can open classrooms is the mental and emotional toll that unwanted virtual learning can have on students.

    “School is community for kids,” Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director Lori Criss said during Thursday’s briefing, “It benefits them beyond their academic content. It's the social and emotional connections that kids feel with friends, classmates, extracurriculars, teachers, and more.”

    “The change of routine and constant uncertainty of a pandemic produces anxiety, disconnection from learning, emotional and social supports, can lead to depression,” Criss also said, “Missed significant events like graduations, proms, arts performances, science fairs, sports and more can result in grief.”

    ODMHAS operates a 24/7 helpline staffed by trained counselors at 1-800-720-9616.