COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – COVID-19 cases reported by Ohio schools saw their first week-to-week uptick in nearly two months on Thursday, ending a downward trend as the Delta variant wave recedes.

K-12 schools reported 4,696 new coronavirus cases among students and staff members to the Ohio Department of Health as of Sunday, a weekly increase just slightly higher than the 4,660 new cases last week. The school-year total stands at 73,974.

The cases published Thursday end a seven-week trend of weekly decreases since NBC4 began tracking in mid-September.

Weekly COVID-19 cases reported by Ohio’s K-12 schools:

  • Sept. 17:  +10,682
  • Sept. 24:  +9,827
  • Oct. 1:  +7,564
  • Oct. 7:  +7,405
  • Oct. 14:  +6,289
  • Oct. 21:  +5,116
  • Oct. 28:  +4,660
  • Nov. 4:  +4,696

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

    1,462 (53%) of the 2,768 schools, districts, private schools, vocational schools, preschools and other non-college institutions that ODH tracks have reported a case this school year. That’s 21 more schools than last week.

    The median number of cases among schools with at least one infection is 15 cases, while the median number for school districts is 74.5 cases.

    62,941 (85%) of Ohio’s school cases are students and 11,033 (15%) are staff members, which include teachers, administrators, coaches and support staff. Last school year, students were roughly 2 in 3 cases, and staff were 1 in 3.

    Cincinnati Public Schools, a district of more than 34,000 students, leads the state with 1,883 cases, ahead of Columbus City Schools at 1,020 cases. Columbus is among five Franklin County districts in the top nine.

    Latest on masks in school

    State health officials continue to recommend masks be worn in schools to limit the spread of COVID-19.

    “Despite a recent downtrend, Ohio’s COVID-19 cases remain at a very high level,” ODH Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said in a statement Monday. “We know that there are two proven ways to keep this virus at bay: Vaccinations for those who are eligible and wearing masks if you cannot get the vaccine.”

    99.8% of Ohio’s public school students are in school five days a week as of last week, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education. However, 60% of students are in a district that requires masks for all or some students, and the remaining 40% learn where masks are optional.

    Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Thursday that he still believes schools should be able to choose whether they require masks, but he reminded educators that “having children wear masks in schools really stops the spread.”

    “I would just urge schools not to change that,” the governor said, referring to those that require masks. “I know some already have (relaxed mask requirements), but we are still at a high level (of COVID-19 cases).”

    Vanderhoff also noted in his Monday statement that even though 5-11-year-olds are newly eligible this week to get vaccinated, it will take five weeks before those vaccinations are fully effective.

    “For these reasons, we continue to encourage students to wear masks in school."